Department of Performing Arts Mission Statement and Learning Goals

Georgetown’s Department of Performing Arts (DPA) integrates creative and critical inquiry, emphasizing artistic excellence, interdisciplinary learning, socially engaged performance, and the spirit of collaboration. The department is home to the College’s undergraduate degree programs in American Musical Culture and Theater & Performance Studies with dozens of performing groups in all aspects of the performing arts (music, theater, dance, and film). We administer a wide range of activities—from teaching critical and creative courses to scheduling the use of practice rooms and mentoring participation in student organizations. DPA also sponsors the professional Friday Music concert series in McNeir Hall and hosts a full season of Theater in the state-of-the-art Davis Performing Arts Center.

The Music Program at Georgetown is distinctive for its emphasis on the study of the performing arts as both a creative activity within contemporary society and a cultural manifestation of multiculturalism in the American World. The program offers courses in music history, criticism, theory, recording arts, film, social justice, and performance. We specialize in all forms of music associated with American Culture, including jazz, rock, dance, film, popular music from around the world, and music stemming from the Western European Tradition. Through this broad range of course offerings and numerous opportunities for community-building music performing activities, the Music Program clearly reflects the intellectual, multicultural, and international character of the liberal arts at Georgetown.

The Theater & Performance Studies Program at Georgetown has attracted significant attention for its unique curriculum (reflecting the political and international character of Georgetown), its commitment to social justice, its focus on adapting, devising, and developing new work, and its cutting-edge student productions. The program encourages interdisciplinary learning about culture, politics, and identity through the lens of performance research, community-based performance, play analysis and playwriting, stage direction, cross-cultural ensemble, solo performance, dramaturgy, design and multimedia production, and world theater history.

Departmental Goals

Students majoring in the Department of Performing Arts will learn how to question, research, analyze and interpret, and how to communicate in varied forms (written, verbal, visual, multimedia) and in diverse contexts.

Through courses that aim at an intensive depth of engagement using the methods of our fields, our students gain practical, experiential training as well as knowledge of the broader cultural and theoretical contexts of theater and performance, and music.

  1. Laying a foundation of knowledge/methodology
  2. Integrative learning
  3. Encouraging critical engagement across multiple fields and practices
  4. Developing social engagement through the arts

Departmental Practices

At every level, we work to integrate theory and practice, to provide training in the historical, critical, contextual, and theoretical aspects of theater and music as well as in the embodied work of making theater and musical performance.

  1. Immersive learning within a course and across the program
  2. Technology & Performance as methodology and subject
  3. Cura Personalis
  4. Engagement in critical research
  5. Applying critical models from various academic fields to performing arts
  6. Awareness: Social Justice, Community Engagement
  7. Encouraging self-learning/collaborative learning

Integrated Writing Requirements

Each of DPA’s distinctive interdisciplinary majors—American Musical Culture and Theater & Performance Studies—understands writing as integral to the exploration of the relationship between performance, culture, and society.

Integrated Writing Requirement for the Music Program

The undergraduate major in American Musical Culture emphasizes writing as a core element in the development of students’ intellectual and professional lives. Student writing is expected to include critical, analytical, ethnographic, historical, and creative dimensions. In the Music Program, the concept of “writing” includes the writing of texts (i.e. scholarly essays, grants, documentary scripts, and lyrics) as well as music notation (i.e. music compositions, arrangements, and transcriptions).

The American Musical Culture major and Music minor develop students’ writing skills through two gateway courses: MUSC 161 Writing about Music, and MUSC 041 Elements of Music. MUSC 161 is a writing workshop that introduces students to the various types of writing associated with music, including music journalism, script writing for radio/film documentaries and musical theater, non-fiction essays, scholarly articles, music-inspired fiction, and the basics of grant writing for non-profit performing arts groups and fellowship applications. MUSC 041 is a hands-on, drill-based class designed to develop an understanding and proficiency in practical music theory through a comprehensive approach. Students learn the basics of musical notation, and the central goal is to integrate hearing and performance with notation and analysis.

Upper-division courses further develop students’ writing skills by providing opportunities for conducting and presenting original research in a variety of fields: musicology, ethnomusicology, media studies, journalism, and/or composition. In addition, each AMMC major must complete a capstone project during the senior year. Some opt to write a thesis that proposes an original research question; others present the findings of their research through a film/radio documentary, a senior lecture recital, or a professional music journalism/music industry portfolio linked to an intensive internship experience.

Integrated Writing Requirement for the Theater & Performance Studies Program

The Theater & Performance Studies major integrates creative and critical inquiry. Writing presents a core pathway for that integration, fostering students’ cultural and professional development. Creative thinking and writing involve the imaginative generation of new ideas, artworks, and performances through the study of creative practices and methods (including, for instance, playwriting, performance, design, and direction). Critical writing and thinking require analytic and reflective engagement with theatrical texts, processes, histories, methodologies, and creative works. Writing specifically to the TPST major manifests variously, for instance as playwriting, adaptation, curatorial notes, critical essays, artist manifestos, grants, and performative scholarship; advanced students may apply to pursue an honors thesis project that can manifest as a creative research project, a more traditional scholarly thesis, or a community-based research project.

Our majors and minors learn interdisciplinary thinking via writing, bringing seemingly disparate bodies of knowledge to bear when problem-solving which will prepare them not only for careers in the arts, but also for work in education, legal fields, public service, consulting, media, and politics.

Our students engage in many writing modalities across the major, including academic, creative, informal, and editorial. In both studio and seminar settings, our writing curriculum prepares students to craft creative solutions to problems —whether social, theoretical, artistic, or historical—based on careful study, research, and analysis. Virtually all courses incorporate formal and informal writing to cross-fertilize critical and creative inquiry, cultivate each writer’s fluency, and foster collaborative learning. Majors will experience three phases of engagement with writing across their degree to ensure an integrated, iterative experience of writing, regardless of their trajectories: