Our Mission

Visual and Performing Arts

Welcome to Visual and Performing Arts at Palo Alto High School. It is a pleasure to work with talented students, parents, faculty and community members to achieve our lofty goal of arts education for all students. While we continue to innovate in the classroom our goal is to meet every student where they are and make them better artists and hopefully better people. Click below to find out more about each discipline from the instructors.

Visual Arts

Visual Arts
Read More About a Class or Program by Clicking Below.
Art History
This course is an illustrated survey of art history from the Prehistoric to the present, Post Modern periods. It is a global art history class, including Western and Non-Western art. It includes architecture, painting, sculpture,monuments, crafts, and less traditional art forms. The course content covers important time periods and civilization centers, with emphasis given to thework evolving out of these major societies. Discussions will highlight important artistic styles, artists, and works of art, as well as their meaning and impact on later time periods. The class will also cover important political, social, and religious issues, (including, class, gender, ethnicity, patronage and audience), as well as technological issues relevant to each period and/or geographical location. Artworks will be presented digitally on a screen and lectures, discussions, reading and writing assignments, videos, and cooperative learning projects will be used to provide students with an understanding of the aesthetic forms created throughout history. Lectures and activities will primarily follow the book. However, instructor will also include some additional information and images.
Faculty
Sue La Fetra
Art Spectrum
Art Spectrum is the pathway or prerequisite course for Paly’s Painting/Drawing and Ceramics/Sculpture classes. It is a yearlong course that covers a variety of two and three dimensional art experiences, emphasizing design, technical and expressive skills, creative problem solving, critical thinking, and the language of art. While students may come with prior art experience, this class is important to building a strong high school level foundation.Lessons primarily focus on art making, but will also include discussions, reflection/critiques, written assignments, and introductions to artists and works of historical significance. Projects will include experiences in design, drawing, shading, perspective, portraiture, color theory and painting, as well as work in clay and other three- dimensional media.
Faculty
Sue La Fetra
Kate McKenzie
Steve Ferrera
Film and Graphic Design
Over the past decade, Paly Video Production has been recognized by organizations that include West Ed (educational resource consortium), The Milken Foundation, UCLA, Pacific Film Archives, the Center for Innovative Learning Technologies and the Digital Storycenter at UC-Berkeley as one of the best high school video/film programs in the nation. Simply put, this program stands on impressive shoulders and serves students who accomplish impressive things.
Faculty
Brett Griffith
Photography
The Palo Alto High School Photography Program welcomes students to new perspectives of framing, exploring, and composing images everywhere they go. The focus of our program is to support skill development for visual literacy and expanding ways of seeing the world around us using cellphones, digital and 35mm cameras, and alternative print techniques. The Paly Photography program integrates a wide range of new technologies with the best of vintage photography processes. Webpages, blogs, slideshows, digital imagery, darkroom prints, cyanotype, Polaroid transfers, altered books, and collage are included in an exciting array of image making techniques for the 21st C. Beginning and Advanced Photography classes develop skills in composing strong images for personal pleasure, publications, contests, and portfolio development for scholarships and internships. AP Studio Art supports students as creative artists developing their unique stylistic approach to college level media skills. Each year the Photography Program hosts the What Matters Photojournalism Forum with world renowned photographers, including Ed Kashi and Camille Seaman. Projects connect art history with contemporary arts and issues including environmental education, social justice, and expanding media arts. We have an active partnership and digital exchange with Lithgow High School in Australia, as well as active participation with the Scholastic Arts & Writing awards each year to showcase and celebrate student achievement in the Visual Arts.
Faculty
Margo Wixsom
Painting and Drawing
Artists learn by doing, learning to look and see, and by thinking. The emphasis in my classes is definitely on making art, but we also spend time looking at and talking about art, as well as thinking about and developing ideas. I generally introduce new concepts with a short lecture or demonstration, and then assign a related project. As we progress through projects, I work one-on-one with students and introduce additional information. We will end most projects with an activity that allows for personal reflection and assessment. Grading is based on use of rubrics introduced at the start of each project.I believe that art skills are just that: a learnable set of skills. When these skills are fueled by interest, thought, commitment, and care, the skills become a means to express creative vision. My goal is to encourage and support behaviors that are necessary to developing a well-rounded artist. These include perseverance, open-mindedness, experimentation, attention to the construction and appearance of a piece, and a willingness to re-work a problem in order to find the best solution. – Kate McKenzie
Faculty
Kate McKenzie
Sculpture: Ceramics and Glass Blowing
The Fiery Arts program is a truly unique experience for Paly students. We have a full ceramic studio with nine pottery wheels and a Raku kiln. At our flame-working studio students can create glass beads and design jewelry, as well as explore glass casting. In our outdoor patio we have our “hot shop” where students can practice the age-old art of glassblowing. Throughout the year students will be introduced to various mediums, processes and methods of an artist and craftsperson. Our goal is to build the skill sets of an artist, and engage in projects that are both technically and conceptually challenging. Art history, a review of contemporary art, and art criticism are also important aspects of the program.
Faculty
Steve Ferrera

Performing Arts

Performing Arts
Read More About a Class or Program by Clicking Below.
Choral/Vocal Music
Palo Alto High School has an impressive 80 year tradition of excellence in choral and vocal music. The 75-voice Concert Choir is chosen from the 2000 student campus and represents its finest singers.The Concert Choir has made its mark by performing masterworks of the great composers, including Gabriel Faure’s Requiem, Franz Schubert’s Mass in G, Antonio Vivaldi’s Gloria, Leonard Bernstein’sChichester Psalms, Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna, and have commissioned works from Chanticleer’s Joseph Jennings.
Faculty
Michael Najar, chair
Monica Covitt
Choral Program Website
Instrumental Music
Welcome to Palo Alto High School Instrumenal Music Program. Our broad program which includes Symphonic Band, Concert Band, Orchestra, Chamber Ensembles, and Jazz Bands is dedicated to making great musicians by playing great music. Even as our ensembles win awards, tour the country and field some of the finest guest artists, we are dedicated to the Paly community. We greet the students and community as they come to our campus, celebrate our diversity, cheer for our teams and we are the last thing they hear as they pick up their diplomas. Join this great tradition of musicians and music making.
Faculty
Jeff Willner
Instrumental Music Program Website
Theatre
Under Construction
Faculty
Kathleen Woods