Creative Arts

From painting, photography, and sculpture, to guitar, ballet, and jazz, to opera, Shakespeare, and musical theatre—with an incredible array of options, and the support and guidance of professional teaching artists, Purnell is a place to explore, create, and discover your artist within.


dance class at Purnell

At Purnell, every girl finds her own way to shine in the spotlight.

Whether onstage as a dancer, behind a set of drums making music or running lights for a show, you’ll gain confidence—and have fun—as you discover your personal voice, take artistic risks, and embrace performance opportunities.

Courses in music, dance and theatre are tailored for an array of learning styles. We focus on technical skills, creative collaboration, and prepare you to perform for an audience.

For girls who want to study performing arts beyond the classroom, we offer a variety of extra-curricular activities.

Performing Arts Appreciation
At Purnell we understand that the artistic experience also includes viewing a variety of artistic works. Students are given opportunities through class, activities, and weekend offerings to view live performances. Previous trips include American Ballet Theatre, Broadway’s Matilda, RVCC arts Ten Hairy Legs, McCarter Theatre’s Fences, and The New Jersey Symphony.


learning guitar

Whether you’re a beginner who loves music or an advanced musician, you’ll be excited about our Music program!

Academic courses like Music PLUS and Guitar Group introduce the language and culture of music through a diverse offering of activities: rock band, small group ensembles, solo performance, and mentoring. We’ll introduce you to a variety of genres, including jazz, blues and rock, as well as instrumentation, vocalization, performance, songwriting, recording, and media. You’ll be able to play music and enjoy activities while developing personal, social, and creative skills.

We’ll challenge you according to your comfort level and skills. You’ll apply your acquired musical knowledge and have the opportunity to connect with the greater community by performing at school events and nearby locations.

Beyond the classroom
For girls who want to study performing arts beyond the classroom, we offer a variety of extra-curricular activities.

Shoots and Strawberries
Students are encouraged to further explore their own voice in Shoots & Strawberries, our school choir. The auditioned choir sings a diverse repertoire ranging from classical, a cappella, and vocal jazz to modern pop, multicultural, and Broadway genres. Throughout the year, members of Shoots & Strawberries perform on the Carney Center stage for Open Houses, Parents' Weekends, Winter and Spring Performing Arts Nights, and Purnell's Awards Ceremonies. In addition, the choir has proudly represented Purnell throughout the tri-state area for holiday concerts, alumnae functions and community service events.

For an additional fee, our music program offers private lessons one day a week ranging from 30 to 60 minutes. Instruments offered include:

  • Voice
  • Piano
  • Guitar
  • Drums

Additional instrument lessons that are not listed above can be arranged through the Performing Arts department.


learning dance

The Purnell dance experience allows talented, motivated dancers to excel, and encourages beginners and undiscovered dancers to develop their own skills.

During the academic day, you may take one of our many dance offerings ranging from Dance Sampler, which allows students to explore each dance genre at a beginner level, to Ballet, which specializes in the technical foundation, lyricism, and expression one would find at a competitive dance studio. All dance classes encourage the study of choreography, history, and application of the course topic. In addition, you’ll travel to see a dance performance, and perform in our Performing Arts Showcase.

Beyond the classroom
Dance Synthesis
is Purnell’s auditioned dance ensemble. The goals of the ensemble are to develop and maintain a technical dance foundation, treat their bodies with respect and proper alignment, and explore a wide scope of dance backgrounds including ballet, tap, contemporary, modern, jazz, and world dances. As performers, the members of Dance Synthesis perform on the Carney Center stage for Family Weekends, Winter and Spring Performing Arts Nights. Company members compete in the Spring at a New Jersey dance competition. In addition, Dance Synthesis participates and performs in dance workshops throughout New York and New Jersey, and Somerset County's Teen Arts Festival every spring.


theatre at purnell

The process of creating theatre at Purnell allows for both the experienced actress and shy student to create and express both onstage and off.

Within all academic components of the theatre program, you’ll read and discuss plays and playwrights, and see live theatre in venues such as McCarter Theatre, Broadway, and New Jersey's Shakespeare Company. At the end of each semester, you’ll perform anything from a standard scene study to an original one-act play during Performing Arts Showcase. A variety of courses are offered on a rotating schedule and include Acting, Improvisation, Survey of Performing Arts (9th grade), Behind the Scenes, and even Makeup Design.

During Project Exploration students in the performing arts are able to participate in an immersive, full-length musical production experience. In less than three weeks of rehearsal students work on all aspects of the production and perform for family, friends, and the community over a three-day period. Previous musicals include Fame Jr., On Your Toes, Thoroughly Modern Mille Jr., and original musicals written by Purnell faculty entitled Bugz: The Buzzical.

Beyond the classroom
Technical Theatre is available to any student who has a strong desire in learning the backstage process of theatre. Here you’ll learn the importance of stage management, how to operate a professional sound and lighting board, theatre etiquette, and help construct and paint sets for future productions.

Members of our auditioned Adlibber's Acting Troupe perform a variety of material ranging from comedy to drama, selected scenes, one-acts plays, and even a full-length production. In addition, Adlibbers participates each year in New Jersey Teen Arts Festival. We’re proud to be recognized each year for our creativity, superb acting, and high-energy performances.


studio arts class

The Johnson Art Center is central to the lives and learning of Purnell students. Classes in the Studio Arts Center cover a wide range of media including: drawing, painting, graphic design, illustration, digital photography, fashion and jewelry design, ceramics, and sculpture.

Students who are applying to college art programs are mentored through the portfolio development process and their works of art are photographed at Purnell. Art students from Purnell have attended all of the top art and design college programs in the U.S.

Every April, the Studio Arts department sponsors the E.B. Osborne Artist in Residence Weekend at the Purnell campus. Artists from many disciplines come to the Purnell School to share their journeys as creative artists and to conduct workshops for our students. This annual event is much anticipated by the students.

Student Gallery

There are many opportunities for students to exhibit art at Purnell. Gould Gallery is a student managed exhibition space with several changing exhibits of Purnell student art during the school year. In addition, the Art Center has exhibition space that continuously features current student work. Every year students exhibit work in several local exhibits as well as county and state exhibits for teen artists.

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Meet Samantha

New Jersey/12th Grade

"I'm dyslexic. Before Purnell, I didn't feel prepared for the real world. Purnell has shaped me to be more independent, and I'm ready for college."

Sam would like to take her two passions -- anatomy/physiology and dance -- and explore possible careers in dance, sports science, or physical therapy.

The Carney Center for the Performing Arts features:

  • 220-seat professional theatre
  • Classroom spaces
  • Large ensemble rehearsal room
  • Music library
  • Costume room
  • Practice Rooms
  • Professional make-up room

The MAC Dance Studio features:

  • Professional multi-purpose dance floor
  • Portable Marley for performances
  • Wall mounted and portable Ballet Barres
  • Dance costume closet

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