Walnut Hill School is the oldest secondary school for the arts in the nation. Internationally recognized as a leader in the education of young artists, Walnut Hill combines a renowned program of preprofessional training in the arts with a rigorous academic curriculum.
Walnut Hill School is a private coeducational boarding and day school for grades 9–12
(ages 13–18). Its mission is to educate talented, accomplished, and intellectually engaged young artists from all over the world within a diverse, humane, and ethical community.
The 116-year old institution is one of just three independent residential high schools in the United States to combine artistic training with a college-preparatory academic program. It is the only independent school in the United States that is affiliated with a major conservatory of music. Established in 1988, the New England Conservatory at Walnut Hill is the nation's premier music education model for high school students.
Walnut Hill is also unique in requiring students to concentrate on just one of five artistic disciplines – ballet, music, theater, visual art, or writing & publishing. Adapting the conservatory model of arts training, Walnut Hill offers a world-class curriculum, faculty, and facilities for each discipline.
More than a training school that equips students with technical proficiency, Walnut Hill is a community of artists that remains true to the school motto of its founders, Non
Nobis Solum (―Not for Ourselves Alone‖). At Walnut Hill, the values of mutual respect
and collaboration are regarded as wellsprings of professional and personal achievement.
All Walnut Hill programs capitalize on the School’s close proximity to Boston, a cultural
capital rich in resources for experiencing, studying, and presenting art. Its 30-acre campus is located in a residential neighborhood of Natick, Massachusetts, a town just 17 miles west of the city.
Founded in 1893 by Wellesley College graduates Florence Bigelow and Charlotte Conant to prepare young women for higher education and lives of leadership, Walnut Hill School continues to educate leaders. Graduates include acclaimed Fenway Studio painter Marion Pooke (1901) and Pulitzer Prize – winning author Elizabeth Bishop
In the 1970s, the School became coeducational and began expanding its arts curriculum into its current conservatory-style programs, starting in 1975 with ballet. Headed by Dr. Eileen Soskin since 2008, Walnut Hill provides an education comprising three domains: intensive training in the arts; a rigorous college-preparatory academic program; and development of each student as an individual and member of the community.
Drawing students of the highest caliber from around the world, Walnut Hill conducts a highly selective admission process. Its candidate auditions and portfolio reviews parallel those of elite postsecondary conservatories and colleges. The School maintains a need-blind admission policy to build a diverse community of strongly motivated students with demonstrated artistic and academic accomplishment. Annually, the School awards $2.9 million in scholarships, an amount equal to 24 percent of gross tuition. In 2008 – 2009, 52 percent of students received financial aid, with awards averaging $18,900.
With a 1:6 faculty-to-student ratio and an average class size of 14, the 300 students at Walnut Hill join an intimate community dedicated to nurturing their development as artists, scholars, and citizens. Academic programs and community life are at the center of their experience at Walnut Hill, where the structure of formal art training and the pursuit of artistic excellence provide a foundation that serves young people well regardless of their professional choices.
Relationships are the heart of a Walnut Hill education. Students work closely with peers whose backgrounds reflect the rich diversity of the professional world. Their role models and mentors are highly accomplished artist-teachers—many of international
From 8:00am to 2:00pm, students in all disciplines unite in an academic program that employs the same learning strategies they experience in their arts classes. Small, interactive workshops and seminars engage students in learning by doing, self-directed projects, peer review and support, attention to process as well as content, collaborative methods, and a schedule that allows extended time each week for in-depth work.
A research partner with the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Walnut Hill School engages students in the disciplined pursuit of excellence. Its innovative academic curriculum, Nexus, fosters critical thinking and creative problem solving. The School recently incorporated digital and Web media into its model with a $50,000 grant from the Edward E. Ford Foundation.
From 2:00pm to 6:00pm and evenings, students pursue their respective arts studies in studio classes, rehearsal sessions, and practice rooms. They study history and theory as well as the core techniques of their discipline and develop original work with the knowledge of current and past practice. The arts curriculum immerses students in the opportunities and challenges of real-world practice and performance using facilities equivalent to professional venues.
Walnut Hill’s five art programs provide a depth and breadth of training, including
independent study. Ballet majors may concentrate in choreography or dance pedagogy. Musicians study an orchestral instrument, piano, guitar, voice, or composition. The theater curriculum includes acting, musical theater, and design and production. Visual art majors may take advanced courses in painting, photography, new media and sculpture. Writing members may focus on verse, prose fiction, or playwriting.
One of Greater Boston’s cultural assets, Walnut Hill presents more than 75 concerts
and performances each year on campus and beyond, as well as art exhibitions twice yearly. All of these events are open to the public. Ballet productions include an annual, sold-out two-week run of The Nutcracker, the Spring Repertory Dance Concert, and
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the Student Choreography Concert. Each year, theater students perform in musicals and plays covering dramatic and comedic works. Twice a year, music students perform at Jordan Hall through our partnership with the New England Conservatory, and as members of the Youth Philharmonic and Youth Symphony Orchestras, they participate in biannual tours throughout the world.
The School’s annual springtime Gala convenes the entire Walnut Hill community, including students, alumni, faculty, and friends. Held at such venues as New York’s
Carnegie Hall and Boston’s Symphony Hall, this event features a spectacular evening of performances by Walnut Hill students as well as exhibitions and panel discussions on arts education and careers. Guests often include members of the Walnut Hill Arts Advisory Board such as cellist Yo-Yo Ma, visual artist Robert Rauschenberg, poet Robert Pinsky, and Broadway producer Eric Falkenstein.
Walnut Hill students also share their talents by volunteering as teachers and mentors. The centerpiece of community service at Walnut Hill is its Arts Partners program with the John Marshall School, a public elementary school in Boston. As participants in a credit-bearing course, Walnut Hill students engage fourth and fifth graders in ambitious arts projects, bringing the rewards of art education to more children.
Walnut Hill alumni enter the most selective colleges, conservatories, and dance companies and excel at careers within the arts as well as other professions, including medicine, law, public service, scientific research, and education.
Recent ballet graduates have been affiliated with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ballet Memphis, Feld Ballet, Hamburg Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Theater, Joffrey Ballet Ensemble, Kansas City Ballet, Metropolitan Ballet of Tokyo, Nederlans Dans Theater, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Pennsylvania Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, Suzanne Farrell Ballet Ensemble and, Twyla Tharp Dance.
Walnut Hill’s music and theater graduates are also attending Berklee College of Music, Boston Conservatory, Cleveland Institute of Music, Curtis Institute of Music, Eastman School of Music, Juilliard School, New England Conservatory, Oberlin College and Conservatory, Peabody Conservatory of Music, and Royal Academy of Music (UK).
Recent visual art graduates are enrolled in the California Institute of the Arts, Cooper Union, Fashion Institute of Technology, Maryland Institute College of Art, Parsons School of Design, Pratt Institute, Rhode Island School of Design, School of the Art Institute of Chicago and School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Walnut Hill graduates are also currently studying at Barnard College, Brown University, Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Deep Springs College, Harvard University, New York University, Princeton University, Sarah Lawrence College, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, Vassar College, and Yale University.
Summer at Walnut Hill
Walnut Hill is a year-round community of artists, serving nearly 350 students each year from all over the world through its secondary school, summer courses, and community education program.
Walnut Hill faculty and guest artists offer intensive summer programs to young students accepted through a highly selective admission process.
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The School also hosts two summer programs administered by nonprofit organizations. The Sphinx Performance Academy at Walnut Hill is a partnership with the Sphinx
Music Organization, founded in 1996 by MacArthur Fellow Aaron P. Dworkin to advance the classical music careers of minority youth. At Sphinx Performance Academy at Walnut Hill, 34 students participate in an intensive, two-week chamber music program. Guest faculty have included Larry Lesser, Charles Castleman, and violinist Sanford Allen, the first African American member of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
In addition, about 25 music students from Asia, predominately Taiwan, participate in the Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts Summer Music Festival at Walnut
Hill, a three-week program designed to enhance appreciation of Eastern music and performing arts.
Walnut Hill enjoys strong relationships with its alumni, who contributed generously to a recent capital campaign that exceeded its $17.5 million goal and more than doubled the School’s endowment to more than $10 million. These funds supported a 20 percent growth in the student body; expansion of financial aid; creation of the new Academic and Technology Center, Fitness Center, Campus Center, and dormitory; enhanced arts facilities, dorms, and offices; and upgrades in faculty salaries and benefits to maintain compensation that is competitive with that of peer institutions.
In September of 2007, the first new freestanding building on campus since the early 1970s was erected by Boston architectural firm Eck MacNeely Architects inc. The $6-
million project includes a 40 – bed dormitory, three spacious dorm parent apartments, four separate 2 – bedroom apartments for Walnut Hill faculty, and landscaping surrounding the structure and a common area that includes an outdoor theater.
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