Fine Arts

At St. Francis, it’s cool to be creative. It’s also common to find a member of the football team creating artwork for a gallery show, a budding scientist holding a leading role in the school play, or a member of Student Council performing in one of our orchestras.

Our school’s well-developed art, music, and drama programs stimulate creative thinking, nurture self-confidence, and enhance leadership skills and academic performance. All that right-brained activity also helps students develop discipline, perseverance, and commitment—as does preparing for gallery shows and for the variety of musical and theatrical productions that take place in our state-of-the-art Fine Arts Center.

Art á la Carte

Along their path to art literacy, students develop an appreciation for art and its history through St. Francis’s signature Art á la Carte program. With trained parent-volunteer docents as their guides, students explore the lives and legacies of famous artists, plus painting, sculpture, and architecture, often in a historical context. They also learn to ask informed art-related questions and to approach art as educated critics, all the while building confidence and becoming inspired to develop their own creativity.

St. Francis School of Music

St. Francis students benefit from a strong group music program that helps them develop a basic musical foundation. Those who want to delve into music more deeply can take their education one step further with the St. Francis School of Music. Led by some of the finest musical talent in Houston, this extracurricular instrumental and vocal program allows students to explore individual musical interests at their own pace and on their own developmental level.

Lessons occur throughout the school day, at times approved by divisions. For more information about the St. Francis School of Music or to inquire about lesson availability, please contact the Explore & Extend Office (713.458.6467).

St. Francis School of Music Faculty

St. Francis School of Music Marc Garvin Guitar
Marc Garvin

Marc Garvin is a guitar soloist, chamber music performer, and well-known instructor. He’s performed regularly with Houston’s classical music triad: the Houston Symphony, Houston Grand Opera, and Houston Ballet. He’s accompanied Italian soprano Cecilia Bartoli, New Zealand’s Hayley Westenra, and legendary Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti. The Houston Ballet tapped him as solo guitarist for its American premier of Christopher Bruce’s Ghost Dances. Whether performing with the Pittsburgh Symphony Chamber Music Ensemble, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., or as a recitalist through the Texas Commission on the Arts, his enthusiasm and musicality have charmed audiences throughout the United States and Canada. Calling Houston home, Marc made the airwaves vibrate on Houston Public Radio, where he co-hosted Pulling Strings, a weekly show for music lovers with an ear for instruments that are picked, plucked, and strummed. Recent performances include several appearances with Kevin Riehle’s Cantare Houston at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, as well as appearances with the Houston Grand Opera. Other recent performances include Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Romancero Gitano with the University of Houston’s chamber choir; Aprille Phollies with the Piping Rock Singers directed by Dr. Isabelle Ganz; and a solo recital at the Classical Minds Guitar Festival as part of the Texas Music Festival at the University of Houston. Most recently, he made a return to the Villa de Matel for a performance of Romancero Gitano with The Rob Seible singers.

With a degree in music from Carnegie Mellon University, Marc Garvin has placed a high emphasis on music education. He currently is the principle classical guitar instructor at Lamar University and Houston Community College (Central Campus). He has also worked as an artist on the roster of Young Audiences of America, and was an active teaching artist for the Texas Institute for Arts in Education. As an instructor, Mr. Garvin has been on the faculties of Carnegie Mellon University, Houston Baptist University, and San Jacinto College.

St. Francis School of Music James Johnson Clarinet Piano
James Johnson
Clarinet / Piano

Clarinetist James Johnson recently earned a master of music degree from the Rice University Shepherd School of Music, studying with Dr. Michael Webster and Thomas LeGrand. He has shared performances with the Shepherd School orchestras and the Houston Symphony. Mr. Johnson has also performed with other area ensembles such as the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra and Opera in the Heights. Before moving to Houston, he completed his bachelor of music degree, studying with Julie Vaverka at The Boston Conservatory. He was principal clarinetist of the Civic Symphony Orchestra of Boston, where he was a frequent soloist and the assistant conductor to Mr. Max Hobart. He has performed Carl Maria von Weber’s Clarinet Concertino with the Parkway Concert Orchestra. Mr. Johnson grew up in San Jose, California, and still performs as principal clarinetist with the San Francisco Academy Orchestra, a chamber orchestra comprising members from the San Francisco Symphony and Opera/Ballet orchestras.

St. Francis School of Music Andrew Nishikawa Piano Percussion
Dr. Andrew
Piano / Percussion

Andrew Nishikawa began his musical studies on the piano at age five, and continued with his early musical career studying piano and percussion as well as playing drums in various punk, funk, jazz, and heavy metal bands in Houston. His catalog includes an eclectic variety of orchestral, chamber, solo, vocal, electronic, and pop music compositions, which have been performed throughout the United States and Japan. His most recent projects include composing the music for Zen, a musical by World Wide Stage, as well as several pieces written for the Da Camera of Houston young artist program. He holds a doctorate degree from Rice University, a master’s degree from the Boston Conservatory, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of St. Thomas. He has taught at Rice University and the University of St. Thomas, and currently teaches in the audio production department at the Art Institute of Houston.

St. Francis School of Music Sylvia Ouellette Violin Viola
Sylvia Ouellette
Violin / Viola

Before joining the faculty of the Michael P. Hammond Preparatory Program at Rice University in 2002, Sylvia Ouellette maintained a large private studio for 15 years and taught at Archbishop Prendergast High School in Philadelphia and the Holton-Arms School in Washington, D.C. She also has been active as a solo, chamber, and orchestral performer in the United States and abroad, with selected performances featured on NPR. Her solo performances have included concerts at Ferrara Estate (Ferrara, Italy); the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C.; and the University of Albany, SUNY.

Ms. Ouellette is a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music. She has since been certified in Suzuki Books 1 and 2 Instruction. She lives in Houston with her husband, Gregory Barnett, a musicologist at Rice University; her two young children, Harry and Lydia; and their two cats, Hannibal and Isabella.

St. Francis School of Music Cameron Smith Piano
Dr. Cameron Smith

Born into a family of accomplished musicians, Cameron Smith began his formal piano studies at the age of five in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Extraordinary talent and hard work paid off as Dr. Smith made his debut appearance with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra when he was nineteen years old. He has since been invited back a number of times to perform as a soloist. Other orchestral engagements include performances with the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra, the Toledo Symphony, and the Orquestra Sinfonica de Porto Alegre in Brazil. Mr. Smith has also performed as an orchestra member under the baton of such distinguished conductors as Neeme Järvi, Gunther Herbig, Hans Graf, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, John Adams, and Thomas Wilkins.

Other notable performances include his 2013 debut at Carnegie Hall, a solo recital at the prestigious Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., and recitals in New York City, Cleveland, Houston, Chicago, Ann Arbor, and Detroit. In addition to numerous solo and chamber music appearances throughout North America, Dr. Smith has also performed in France, Germany, England, Brazil, and Bulgaria.

Dr. Smith’s educational background includes a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music, and a doctor of musical arts degree from Rice University in the studio of concert pianist Jon Kimura Parker.

Dr. Smith has more than 20 years of experience teaching piano. During his years at Rice University, he taught piano to university students as part of a graduate teaching assistantship award, and was a faculty member of the Rice University Michael P. Hammond Preparatory Program from 2003-06. He was also a faculty member at Loyola University Chicago from 2008-12, where he taught applied piano lessons and coached chamber music. Dr. Smith’s students have won numerous competitions, been featured on radio and television, and entered music programs at the university level.

School of Dance

Through our Explore and Extend programs, St. Francis is proud to introduce our new School of Dance. Working with dancers of both performance and instruction backgrounds, we offer a growing selection of classes that begin with the foundational skills of ballet and jazz, and progress to higher levels of dance and a broader study of styles. Utilizing our new dance room, students will learn technique, imrpve body awareness and movement, as well as develop an appreciation for the expressive form of art that is dance.