Student Life

Performing Arts

The Performing Arts Department seeks to impart to its students through its Kindergarten through grade 12 curriculum an enduring understanding of specific knowledge, principles, and habits of mind such as the ability to:
  • Learn and apply fundamentals skills and techniques in performance, listening and observation, and composition.
  • Understand art as humanity -- an experience with who we are while remembering others before us.
  • Understand art as community -- in ensemble building, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
  • Appreciate art as a creative and critical process.

From our introductory classes in the Lower School to our award-winning ensembles in the Upper School, the breadth and depth of opportunities in the Performing Arts for students at St. Margaret's is unparalleled. Our programs aim to tap into the creative talents inherent in all young people, develop life-long skills in collaboration and communication, and recognize excellence.
Our artist-faculty are professional performers of the highest caliber who balance their classroom instruction with significant real-world experience on the concert/recital stage. They play an active role in the artistic scene both in the Southern California region and abroad, and are affiliated with professional arts and education organizations such as ACDA, AEA, SAG-AFTRA, CAPMT, CMEA, Dramatist's Guild, MENC, MTAC, MTNA, Grammy Recording Academy, and SCSBOA.

Performing Arts Faculty

List of 13 members.

  • Daniel "Dan" Pacheco 

    Director of Performing Arts; Department Chair
  • Christopher "Chris" Carbajal 

    Band Director
  • Katie DeShan 

    MS Theatre Teacher/Director
  • Zachary "Zach" Hanna 

    K-5 Music & LS Musical Director
  • Kirsten Harvey 

    Director of Dance
  • Linling Hsu 

    Orchestra Director
  • Spencer Keane 10

    PAC Production Assistant "On Call"
  • Adela Kwan 

    Director of Choral Music
  • Alexander "Lex" Leigh 

    Accompanist & Music Director
  • Jeannette Miller 

    Assistant to the Arts
  • Gordon Richins 

    Technical Director / Resident Designer
  • Corinne Samskey 

    MS and US Mathematics
  • Michele Silverman 

    Production Manager for the Arts


St. Margaret's offers a full range of dance classes for students in Early Childhood School through the grade 12. Students in the Early Childhood School and Lower School may enroll in the St. Margaret's Dance Conservatory, where they take age-appropriate classes in ballet, hip hop and tap, after school. Middle and Upper School students may take dance to fulfill both their P.E. and their Fine Arts Credits as part of their regular school day. In the Upper School there are two levels of dance offered. Students in these classes study and perform in a variety of genres including ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, and hip-hop technique. Dance classes also include yoga and Pilates-based conditioning to increase flexibility and strength. Instruction focuses on correct postural alignment, coordination, rhythmic patterns, fundamental dance positions, dance history and terminology. These courses emphasize essential life skills such as concentration, self-discipline, precision, goal-setting, confidence-building, self-expression, teamwork, effective communication and responsibility. The Dance Program produces two All-School Dance Concerts each year, which showcase both faculty and student choreography. Students are also introduced to the art of choreography and encouraged to creatively express themselves through guided exercises and group projects.


Theater at St. Margaret's is a process-oriented, experientially-based program available to students in grades 1 through 12. In the Lower School, dramatic play in the classroom sows the seeds of exploring the world of drama. Children participate in acting out stories, their own stories and ones from classroom literature. The Lower School produces two full-scale musicals with an open casting policy; every child who wishes to participate receives a role.  The Lower School has a musical for students in grades 4 and 5 and another musical for students in grades 1-3.  In the Middle School, every student in grades 6 and 7 takes theater, in a rotating schedule with other enrichment courses. Students in grade 8 may enroll in theater, a semester-long elective. The Middle School musical and play offers students opportunities to participate not only as actors, but in backstage and technical positions as well. The Upper School offers two University of California approved classes: Theater One and Advanced Theater. Over the course of the academic year, there are three full theater productions, including a drama, a musical and an evening of student-written and -directed plays. The technical and design positions are held almost entirely by students in the Upper School. St. Margaret's also participates in the Cappies, a national Critics and Awards Program for High School Theater and the Childress MACY Awards.


St. Margaret’s offers comprehensive ensemble music programs for students in grades 4 through 12 that start with beginning classes all the way up to standard concert groups that rehearse and perform great works of music literature. Instruction in each discipline combines classroom interaction with technology-supported learning tools. All of our ensembles have two major concert performances each year in December and April, along with additional performing opportunities in collaboration with musical theater productions, chapel services, and other St. Margaret’s community functions.

Music Program Offerings

List of 3 items.

  • Band

    The Band Program offers a two-year introductory sequence in concert band instruments in the Lower School (oboe, flute, clarinet, bassoon, saxophones, trumpet, trombone, french horn, tuba, percussion) that combines individual instruction with ensemble practice and performance through a curriculum based on the Essential Elements 2000 series. Students in grades 6 and 7 are members of the Tartan Marching Band. The Middle School Band has both grade-level and combined rehearsals each week, and a Jazz ensemble, the Middle School Big Band is also offered. The Upper School Concert Band studies and performs major works from the wind ensemble repertoire. The Upper School Jazz Combo is an advanced group focusing on small-ensemble training and improvisation in the performance of Jazz standards.
  • Choir

    The Choir Program begins in the Lower School, with rudimentary training in solfège, diaphragmatic breathing, posture and improvisational singing. Students are exposed to repertoire in many different genres and time periods, as well the opportunity to sing in several different languages. The Middle School choirs continue this training at a more advanced level, as well as affording students more solo opportunities. Choir at this level also offers an auditioned choral experience with the Tartan Chorale, open to all students in the Middle School. This ensemble meets once per week, studying more advanced repertoire and providing a more focused experience in true choral singing. The Upper School Highlander Chorale is a co-curricular class, designed to give the average and advanced singer the skills necessary to become adept at singing in many styles and genres. Students learn more advanced techniques of proper vocal production and have varied experiences in ensemble and solo singing. Chorale also provides students with a strong sense of commitment to the ensemble and pride in working together toward long- and short-range goals. This ensemble tours internationally every four years, and past tours have included England, Scotland and Italy.
  • Orchestra

    The Orchestra Program offers a comprehensive ensemble experience for students in every division at St. Margaret's. The Suzuki String Academy offers private instruction and small group lessons on stringed instruments in the world-renowned Suzuki Method to students in K-3. The Lower School String Orchestra combines individual instruction with ensemble practice and performance through a multifaceted curriculum that focuses on developing strong basic skills in music literacy and the interpretation of music. The Middle School Orchestra offers introductory training in the symphonic tradition of Haydn and Mozart to string, woodwind, brass, and percussion students. The Upper School Orchestra explores a vast symphonic repertoire starting with Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Schubert, regularly collaborating with The Orchestra of St. Margaret's, a semi-professional ensemble based at the school made up of faculty, staff, private teachers, and community members. Finally, Chamber Music offers advanced students the opportunity to study Sonatas, Piano Trios, String Quartets, Wind Quintets, and more. Annually, orchestra ensembles at the school regularly present over two dozen performances, including numerous collaborations with Drama and Dance.

Music Studies

List of 3 items.

  • Advanced Placement Music Theory

    The formal study of music theory gives students a thorough background in which to develop the ability to recognize, understand, and describe the basic materials and processes of music that are heard or presented in a score. The achievement of these goals is approached by initially addressing fundamental aural, analytical, and compositional skills using both listening and written exercises. Building on this foundation, the course progresses to include more creative tasks such as the harmonization of a melody by selecting appropriate chords, composing a musical bass line to provide two-voice counterpoint, and the realization of figured-bass notation. Subjects covered include melody, harmony, texture, rhythm, form, musical analysis, elementary composition, and to some extent, history and style along with Musicianship skills such as dictation, sight-singing, and keyboard harmony. This course makes use of the Practica Musica education training software.
  • Early Childhood

    Our early childhood program in music for students in preschool through grade 3 introduces students to the world of music through an organized series of presentations, games, and hands-on activities that promote an awareness and appreciation for the art form. Music basics are taught that allow students a seamless transition into our ensemble music programs beginning in grade 4. Lower School students may choose to participate in the after-school Pipers Choir program.
  • Private Instruction

    Beyond ensemble training, our music staff also offers optional one-on-one weekly lessons for students in every subject. We encourage our students to take private lessons on campus to augment their skills and improve the quality of their ensemble experience. Our Artist-In-Residence faculty provide personalized courses in vocal performance, songwriting, composition, arranging, and theory.
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An Independent Preschool Through Grade 12 College-Preparatory Day School in Orange County California

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St. Margaret's Episcopal School does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, color, religion, sexual orientation or national and ethnic origin in the administration of its educational, admission, financial aid, hiring and athletic policies or in other school-administered programs.