Art JanTerms embark on trips to New York and Los Angeles


Group painting during the color JanTerm. Photo by Mario Chard, English teacher

Several Westminster students sit on padded couches, listening to composer James Newton Howard show off his musical score for Fantastic Beasts 3, an upcoming movie set to premiere in April 2022. As they watch his animated movements, they discover music’s vital role in film storytelling. Over in New York, curious students marvel at some of the world’s most iconic paintings, including Starry Night, The Persistence of Memory, and Washington Crossing the Delaware

Among the 46 JanTerm courses offered at Westminster, several options are arts-related and appeal to students involved in music or art at Westminster. Out of the art-related JanTerms, the ones that feature overnight travel are Music and the Movies and Art History. These two courses consider the interplay between the arts and other disciplines: Music and the Movies studies the connection between music and film, while Art History studies the intersection of fine art with literature. 

Music and the Movies took a six-day trip to Los Angeles, where they visited notable landmarks, various museums, concert halls, and movie theaters. The class even attended a pilates session with a movement specialist. However, the main purpose of the trip was to visit famous composers and hear them speak about their experiences in the film industry. 

“Composers are our favorite people to visit when we are in LA,” said Scott Stewart, one of the teachers of Music and the Movies. Among the composers that the class met with were nationally renowned composers such as Austin Wintory, James Newton Howard, Shie Rozow, Sherri Chung, David Gonzalez, and Bruce Broughton. 

Leading up to the trip, students in Music and the Movies listened to the works of those composers and watched several films throughout the different eras of film. 

“My favorite part was probably visiting the Academy Museum and Warner Brothers Studios. It was so exciting to see props and storyboards from the films we watched for homework displayed in the museum,” said junior Melanie Zhang, one of the 18 students in the Music and the Movies JanTerm. 

On the other hand, the Art History JanTerm took a shorter, two-day trip to New York City, stopping by many of the museums in the area.

“While there, we were lucky enough to see much of the art we studied in the classroom,” said Amy Patel, one of the three teachers of the Art History JanTerm. “Museums like the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art were spectacular playgrounds.”

The museums in New York City hold some of the most distinguished pieces of art in the world, which makes it the ideal destination for the JanTerm’s overnight trip. Similar to Music and the Movies, students in Art History were also able to see the artworks they studied in class in the museums they visited.  

“I really enjoyed the Met museum. It was the first time I had ever been, and I was amazed by how big it was and how much art was on display,” said junior Aanya Chaganthi, who took the Art History JanTerm course. “My favorite painting was Washington Crossing the Delaware. It’s the painting that we see in most history textbooks, so seeing it in real life was pretty amazing. I wasn’t expecting it to be so large. It was more than 20 feet long.”

While the overnight trip is the highlight of both courses, the remainder of the three weeks of JanTerm was spent in the classroom. For Music and the Movies, time in the classroom was spent listening to lectures, analyzing clips of film, and surveying music from as early as the silent film era all the way up to the present day.  

“We spend about a week talking about music, film history, personalities, composers, how music functions in media,” said Stewart. “We get inside the artistic, creative side of things, but we also get information about the business side of things. We see how music is a part of a really big picture that goes into film, television, and video games. The most important takeaway from our class is that they leave here being better listeners.”

The Art History JanTerm spent time in the classroom studying the various forms of art: poetry, drama, sculpture, paintings, and architecture. 

Rather than typical courses from the school year, which only have one teacher, JanTerms are taught by multiple instructors. Music and the Movies is taught by Stewart and  Ellen Vesey, while Art History is taught by Patel, Julie Pace, and MeredithMiller. 

“Mrs. Vesey and I love to work together, and it helps that we are personally and professionally compatible,” said Stewart. 

Often, the different teachers have skill sets that complement one another and divide the work to play to their strengths as teachers. 

“Since I am a musician by training and by background, I am able to be the content specialist. I focus on music history, film history, and techniques,” said Stewart. “Mrs. Vesey is very much the person managing the structure of the class and the flow of everyday activities.”

Although JanTerm is a time for students to explore subjects outside of the required courses in schools, students still receive grades and are assessed on newly learned content. In Music and the Movies, students are given low-stakes assignments throughout the course.

“By the time our JanTerm is over, the students have about 60 to 70 grades, so this is a class where you are continually given feedback and given opportunities to improve,” said Stewart.

Likewise, students in Art History are assessed by graded discussions, reading quizzes, and essays. The course is known to be a reading and writing-intensive course, and the course description informs students who are thinking about taking the course that “although this class will have a visual focus, there will be extensive reading, writing, and research involved in the coursework.” 

Both JanTerms feature a capstone project to conclude the course. For the Music and the Movies final project, each student was assigned a film to analyze. They created a five to seven- minute podcast discussing the soundtrack from their assigned movie and created a 90-second film review. 

The JanTerm trips offered informative and unforgettable experiences to the students and exposed them to opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise have if confined to Georgia. 

“I thoroughly enjoyed my JanTerm experience, and I feel extremely grateful for the opportunity to travel to Los Angeles. It’s definitely a memory I will always remember,” said Zhang.