2024 Curriculum

The curriculum of the Missouri Fine Arts Academy is divided into three distinct categories of study:

  1. Interdisciplinary Artistic Studies
  2. Discipline-specific Artistic Studies
  3. Elective Classes

1. Interdisciplinary Artistic Studies

The Interdisciplinary (ID) course at Missouri Fine Arts Academy

  • Is facilitated by a team of teachers from different artistic disciplines
  • Is composed of a student group, including artists from various disciplines, that stay together throughout the duration of the class
  • Revolves around a broad theme that embraces all of the following disciplines: vocal music, instrumental music, visual arts, theatre, and dance
  • Provides all students with active participation experiences in each of these disciplines, facilitated by peers and by teachers with artistic expertise
  • Allows student to shape, in great measure, the course experiences
  • Recognizes the facilitators have valuable experience, insights, knowledge, and talents
  • Includes a concept-based interdisciplinary presentation that encompasses student participation in all the fine arts areas and addresses the broad theme
  • Culminates in an evaluation session that includes evaluation of the presentations themselves, group processes, and student learning

Each student will spend every class day morning working in an innovative course of an interdisciplinary nature.

Each interdisciplinary group is composed of about 25 students, including vocalists, instrumentalists, visual artists, dancers, and actors. Each group experience is facilitated by two faculty members with specialties in different artistic disciplines. Students and facilitators in each group work collaboratively to explore a single broad theme. The process of exploration naturally involves students’ participation in experiences that meet Missouri’s performance standards for students in its schools

  • Gather, analyze and apply information and ideas
  • Communicate effectively within and beyond the classroom
  • Recognize and solve problems
  • Make decision and act as responsible members of society

Each of the five interdisciplinary groups creates a unique presentation that illustrates the Academy theme and that incorporates all the artistic disciplines represented at the Academy. These presentations are shared with the rest of the Academy community. A reflection and evaluation session follows the presentations.

Course Objectives (.doc, 39K)
Rationale, Plan and Strategies (.doc, 46K)

Course Descriptions

Expanding Our Experience

Instructor: Erin Tyler and Jacob Hiser

Through a series of interdisciplinary exercises, we will expand our understanding of what art is and how it can be approached. By participating in activities such as deep listening, chance-based artmaking, found object soundscapes, writing prompts and group improvisational acting we will equip ourselves with ways to creatively experience life, drawing connections across artistic disciplines. As a final project, students will work together to formulate unique creative expressions incorporating multiple artistic disciplines that tell a story, evoke an emotion, raise questions, and/or disrupt the norm.

Creating for a Better World: Art as Equity

Instructor: Rick Briggenhorst and Tanner Munson

Historically, art has played a critical role in protest movements and the fight to achieve equity in the United States and globally. Whether through music, poems, paintings or other forms of creative expression, art has been at the core of efforts to express emotion, communicate difficult concepts, ignite action, and change what seems impossible. Art has been particularly important in illustrating how it feels to experience privilege or oppression and exploring the implications of policies and practices that affect us indirectly or directly. In this course, we delve into several arts-based examples that demonstrate how art provides insights, observations, and offers strategies to address inequalities in our world and begin to shape change. “Creating for a Better World: Art as Equity” empowers students to recognize the impact they and their creativity can have on the world around them. By collaborating across disciplines, students will develop a project that impacts positive change in their MFAA experience or beyond. The ending result could be an immersive experience, performance, zine, video, etc.

Acting through the Lens: A Self-Tape Film Acting Workshop

Instructor: Laine Cordell and Annette Oliphant

Young artists will explore how to give a strong audition on film, how to market themselves as a well-rounded professional, how to build a resume, understand typecasting, and focus on the fundamentals of film acting, screen tests, vocal music auditions and understanding the new wave of the industry in self-taping.

Arts as Social Gathering

Instructor: Dr. Perry Mears and Rachel Wood

Musicians, painters, poets, and other artists flourish in community. And while deep work often happens in isolation, the expression of that work happens best in and an around others who see the world differently. There are many examples of these kinds of fruitful cross-disciplinary social gatherings throughout history: the Florentine Camerata and Parisian Salon culture, just to name a few. How do we recreate the positive aspects of these gatherings—art as a social gathering, not a museum—without playing into its negative associations? This course aims to do just that, by allowing students to imagine ways the arts can cross pollinate in a casual, relaxed atmosphere that nurtures excellence, not passive praise. This imagining will result in test outings, where visual artists, writers, and musicians present their work around coffee/snacks and discover ways to offer feedback that is supportive, inventive, and substantive. And then, in the next gathering, offer works that reflect that take into consideration that feedback.

Musical Theatre

Instructor: Michael Butcher and Dr. Jason Hausback

Students with an emphasis in vocal music and students with an emphasis in acting, come together to learn how musical theatre is constructed, created, and performed. Students will create an original musical performance and perform it at the showcase.

Making a Museum

Instructor: Shaylin Montgomery and Dr. Heather Nelson

In this class, students will study existing museum experiences before creating several museum experiences of their own. What form these experiences will take will be decided by the students, but each experience will reflect the Academy’s theme of transformation. Like most museum experiences, the ones designed here will be visual, verbal, auditory, and much more; in this way, each of the fine arts will be addressed and honored by all students. 

Interviews and Artistic Response

Instructor: Gemma Campanini and Colby Jennings

In this course, students will utilize interviewing and notetaking to decipher peer narratives and formulate artistic responses across a variety of artistic mediums. The course culminates in a dynamic showcase where students present their original interviews alongside their responsive artworks. This final presentation provides a platform for vibrant interaction and feedback, allowing students to engage deeply with each other’s work, grow collectively in their artistic pursuits, and cultivate deep, empathetic connections. Students will begin by forming collaborative groups with their peers. They will create detailed interview scripts and ultimately conduct interviews that delve into the artistic motivations, aspirations, and influences of each group member, using effective notetaking to capture the essence of these personal stories. The narratives gathered through the interviews will serve as inspiration for artistic responses across multiple mediums, including the innovative use of time-based media and video art practices with spoken word poetry. This medium allows students to experiment with moving images and sound, crafting compelling visual abstractions that complement traditional expressions such as visual art, creative writing, music, theater, and dance.


Instructor: Dr. Kurt Heinlein and Meganne Rosen

Dive into the captivating realms of 20th-century art history with a contemporary twist in WTFluxus! Students will learn about the revolutionary art movements of DaDa and Fluxus, while immersing themselves in a hands-on exploration of performance art, visual art, writing and music.  From the absurdity of DaDa to the experimental ethos of Fluxus, students will uncover the essence of these movements and their relevance in today’s art world. Students will engage in a series of creative exercises, including collage, Exquisite Corpse, Black Out Poetry, Cut-Up Poetry, Performance Art, and more! Each session will challenge students to push the boundaries of their creativity, fostering experimentation across multiple disciplines. The course will culminate in a zine and accompanying performance produced by the class. Join us at the crossroads of tradition and innovation as we explore art, creativity, and self-expression in the 21st century!

2. Discipline-Specific Artistic Studies

Each student is placed in a class focusing on the discipline in which they were accepted to the Academy:

  • Creative Writing
  • Theatre Studies
  • Instrumental Music
  • Visual Arts
  • Vocal Music

Course Descriptions

Frame by Frame: Exploring the World of Stop Motion Animation

Instructor: Colby Jennings

"Frame by Frame" is an advanced stop motion animation course inviting students to experience the art of bringing objects to life. Across nine 90-minute sessions, the students will immerse themselves in the foundations of moving imagery, from crafting narratives to frame-by-frame production. Students will collaborate to create short animations, each harnessing a distinct style, ranging from claymation to the techniques of pixelation. This course is tailored to challenge students to conceptualize and articulate refined visual stories. Through hands-on experience with storyboarding, set construction, and character animation, they will sharpen their artistic skills while exploring the interplay between motion, emotion, and storytelling in this unique and transformative art form.

Category: Visual Arts

Combat for Stage and Screen

Instructor: Dr. Kurt Heinlein

An introduction to the techniques used in the performance of combat and physical violence on both stage and screen. Emphasis is placed upon safety and honest physicalization.

Category: Theatre Studies

Approaching Abstraction & Process-Based Art

Instructor: Erin Tyler

This studio-focused class explores different artmaking methods through non-traditional exercises to encourage creative problem-solving and visual exploration. We will discuss originality, appropriation, process-based art, and how to pull inspiration and designs from everyday experiences. Collaboratively, using the processes of photography, tracing, and altered images we will create a visual library of small acrylic paintings based on moments experienced at the Academy. Additionally, we will learn a basic book-binding process and make interactive notebooks/sketchbooks using found and discarded materials. This class will challenge student’s ideas on what art can be and give them tools for further ideas exploration.

Category: Visual Arts

Improvisation in Music

Instructor: Jacob Hiser

"Music is the universal language." That phrase may seem cliché, but current music education practices tend to focus solely on being able to read the written language of music. When it comes to spoken languages, reading is an important skill, but the majority of our communication is through listening and speaking. We originally learn to speak by listening to what we hear and imitating it, eventually internalizing the words until we can communicate our own thoughts. To become fluent improvisers, musicians must build their lexicon of musical "words" by critically listening to and internalizing a wide variety of music by ear. Once a vocabulary is established, the improvisers then work to "speak" their own ideas in a clear, coherent way in any musical situation they find themselves in. In this course, we will listen closely to excerpts from classical, jazz, rock, and folk traditions, and learn them by ear, building our musical vocabulary and understanding of each genre's internal logic. Using that vocabulary and understanding, we will improvise as a group, arrange previously existing music, and compose new pieces and improvisatory structures. We will also explore improvisation beyond the boundaries of genre, experimenting with unfamiliar sounds, atypical formal structures, and using extra-musical materials as prompts for improvisation/composition. Knowledge of music theory is helpful, but not necessary. All instrumentalists and vocalists are welcome.

Category: Instrumental Music

Instrumental Music

Instructor: Dr. Jason Hausback

Topics in this course include the building blocks of music, learning how to analyze music, music performance coaching, an exploration of modern performance techniques/compositional styles, and presenting a group performance at the end of the Academy.

Category: Instrumental Music

Holistic Singing: Engaging the Whole Self in Song

Instructor: Dr. Heather Nelson

In this course, we'll explore how singing is a whole self-activity, involving the brain, the body, the emotions, and our own personal histories in deep ways. We'll explore vocal health, practice techniques, mindfulness, among other things, and how to integrate these things into our life on the stage. Our focus will be both working on our voices in the present moment and singing for life. Students should come with three songs in various stages of preparation: one song performance ready, one song that is well-learned but needs some polishing, and one song in the beginning stages of learning.

Category: Vocal Music

Not Quite Karaoke

Instructor: Tanner Munson

An in-depth look at contemporary commercial music and the vocal training required to perform this style of music successfully. Students will engage in a variety of activities including: the preparation of a solo piece, resources available for high-quality arrangements of popular songs, tools to transpose tracks into keys appropriate for their range, and technical exercises to assist with healthy vocal development. Students are encouraged to arrive with a song they feel best shows off their abilities.

Category: Vocal Music

Storytelling with Blake Snyder's "Save the Cat!"

Instructor: Shaylin Montgomery

In 2005, Blake Snyder took the writing world by storm with the publication of a book entitled "Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need." This book offered tips for writing great stories using a formula that was flexible enough to accommodate whatever wild adventures authors could imagine but structured enough to ward off that ever-present evil: Writer’s Block. Over the years, the principles outlined in Snyder’s text have been applied to a variety of storytelling mediums—from film to TV to novels, and so much more! In this class, student writers will learn about "Save the Cat!" storytelling as they write "Save the Cat!" stories of their own. (NOTE: Writers of all genres—fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and more—can benefit from an understanding of this process.)

Category: Creative Writing

Free Verse Universe

Instructor: Gemma Campanini

This course will enable students to analyze, write, prepare, and ultimately perform original free-verse poetry through an array of collaborative activities, group discussions, and individual writing prompts. After studying the foundational concepts of written-style verse, students will be empowered to develop writing and delivery styles that draw upon their unique voices and talents to create powerful performative works.

Category: Creative Writing

Improv and Sketch Comedy

Instructor: Annette Oliphant

Experience the power of play, and the fun of improvisational comedy in a safe environment. Improv and sketch comedy are vital to becoming a comedic actor. In this course we will explore comedic timing, what CORE means in an improv scene, and how to structure a “stand up special.This program will provide a strong foundation to comedy as an actor.

3. Elective Classes

Each student takes two elective classes; one "A" Day elective, one "B" Day elective. Students may use the course selection form to submit their top three course choices for each elective period.

— "A" Day Electives

Musical Partnership

Instructor: Dr. Perry Mears

This course would provide pianists, vocalists and instrumentalists with opportunities to make music together in chamber music settings (classical or more contemporary). Class sessions would involve both instruction and demonstration along with group listening activities. Topics such as how to formulate and ask helpful questions in rehearsal without being bossy (rehearsal techniques), how to learn your part well enough so you can pay attention to your partners' musical choices (score study), and how to support each other during the performance itself. 

Category: Instrumental Music

Acting Techniques

Instructor: Michael Butcher

The main goal of this course is to explore various acting techniques in theatre. Students will be actively engaged in a variety of acting techniques and strategies.

Category: Theatre Studies

Monologue Workshop/Acting for the Singer

Instructor: Laine Cordell

Students will bring a contemporary song with a pre-recorded track, or a contemporary monologue, prepared to workshop. If you are a musical theatre kid who wants to hone your acting skills, this is the class for you! If you want to learn how to be memorable in an audition as an actor, this class is for you! All pieces must be from a current play, musical, TV show or film (1990-present). We will also discuss how to build a resume, learning how to establish boundaries as an actor in the industry, and creating a brand for yourself that is honest and marketable.

Category: Theatre Studies

— "B" Day Electives —

Nonrepresentationa. Expression and Artmaking as Choice-Making

Instructor: Rick Briggenhorst

Have you ever seen a work of art or heard a song that fully embodies an emotion or story? For the artists to create these moving works they had to make hundreds of choices to get the emotion just right. In this class, we will learn a key lesson in making impactful contemporary art: the understanding that every choice we make when creating affects the communicative potential of our artwork. In this class, students will learn how to utilize the elements of art and principles of design to create impactful, highly unique, nonrepresentational artwork that embodies personal stories and emotions. “Nonrepresentational” simply means we will shift from focusing on realistic depictions of the world to focusing on depicting expressive emotions and experiences through abstraction. Using a variety of materials including acrylic paint on two-dimensional surfaces, students will begin with guided experiments that demonstrate how color can be used to tell a symbolic story and how different line qualities and brush strokes can express a range of emotions from comfort and discomfort. Following the experiments, the students will create a final project under an umbrella concept decided upon by the class.

Cateogry: Visual Arts

Weaving in the Wild: Off the Loom Weaving

Instructor: Meganne Rosen

In this course we will explore the vibrant world of fiber arts! Learn different kinds of weaving, including branch and frame weaving, and work with a variety of techniques and materials.

Category: Visual Arts

Installation Art: Transforming the World One Space at a Time

Instructor: Rachel Wood

This class will explore various kinds of installation art, learning about how large-scale, mixed media artwork can transform a space. Artists such as Yayoi Kusama, Marcel Duchamp, Damien Hirst, and Kara Walker among others will be incorporated into the curriculum. Students will conduct research and planning for their own collaborative art installations, focusing on how art can change spaces, perceptions, and beliefs. A variety of mediums will be encouraged to be used including but not limited to: recycled materials, fibers, paper, and objects from nature. Students will learn different techniques related to installation art as well as how to create purpose behind their work.

Category: Visual Arts