Paul Laurence Dunbar Middle school offers a wide variety of cultural arts experiences for our students.  We have an outstanding state of the art theatre and theatre production department.  Our competitive theatre group has received Gold Awards for performances for six years in a row.  (highest ranking possible) and we have had numerous student actors/actresses receive individual awards. 

We offer art classes at every grade level through exploratory and elective classes as well as through enrichment activities. 

In music, we have  award winning band, chorus and orchestra programs.  Students can be involved in these programs through classes or after school activities. 


Dunbar Middle School Art offers students the experience of numerous different types of mediums; from traditional drawing and painting, to ceramics, recycled materials, wood working and even environmental art!

6th grade exploratory is a basic introduction to the elements of art, color theory, and ceramics. The lessons learned in 6th grade art are a stepping stone to 7th grade exploratory art.

7th grade exploratory is expanding on the basics that was learned in 6th grade. Human facial proportions are introduced, as well as the concept of space (positive and negative), plus larger ceramic works.

8th Grade Art - Semester Elective. This class offers students a foundation in art technique, materials, and history. The projects reflect the history of the art movement and integrations of art with science (flower studies, space, etc), math (tessellations, proportions), and technology (wood working collaborative projects). The students will use a variety of different mediums and materials to create their work and the projects are more in-depth since it is a semester elective. Each student will also paint a tile that will remain a permanent fixture at Dunbar.

8th Grade Advanced Art/ArtZone - One Year Elective. Students are selected for this class by submitting a portfolio as a 7th grade student. Only 18 students are selected and enrolment is competitive. This class challenges the young, talented artist to take a serious approach to their own artwork and technique. Students in this class not only improve on their own artistic abilities, they also work together in groups creating sculptures out of recycled materials, combining the herpetology center plus natural and environmental aspects into their own artwork and projects. Students in this class enter at least two art competitions during the year. At the end of the year they will host a gallery featuring their own accomplishments, plus complete a series of permanent murals on the walls of Dunbar.


Dunbar's Band program consists of three bands: the sixth grade band, which is a beginning band for learning music basics; the seventh grade intermediate band; and the eighth grade advanced band. The bands participate in may concerts during the year. Students compete to participate in the all regional band as well as competition on a concert festival. The seventh and eighth grade bands have performed at King's Dominion and played the Star Spangled Banner for the Lynchburg Classic.


Dunbar Middle School of Innovation offers an orchestra program for students grade 6th through 8th. The Dunbar Middle School Orchestras have performed on many different occasions in the schools and in the community. Some of the performances have included: Day in the Park, our annual Winter and Spring Concerts, Mall Marathon, Suzuki Festival and Pre-Concert and Concert Assessment. Selected students have also had the opportunity to perform at community and school-wide events. 

The focus of the DMS Orchestra program is to develop the playing skills necessary to become a competent performer. Correct playing posture, the development of a proper bow hold, tuning of the instrument, playing with beautiful tone, vibrato, shifting and advanced bow strokes will all be addressed.  Students will become independent readers and improve their musicianship skills in counting, pitch recognition and sight-reading. All students are taught and tested on fundamentals of basic music theory. The experience of teamwork, following the conductor and overall musicianship are emphasized.

Concert and class participation - Orchestra class is a performance based class. Grading is based on a total point system in which mandatory concert performances receive 200 points.  A class participation grade is given weekly. The grade is based on preparedness, attention to and respect for the conductor, volunteering to demonstrate, maintaining focus and responding to questions. Extra credit is given for outside performances and attendance at area musical venues.

Tests - Both playing tests and written tests are given throughout the year. Students grow musically from graded evaluations and feedback. All students benefit from hearing others play and from performing in front of their peers. Students are expected to sit quietly during individual playing tests. All tests are worth 100 points.

Practice Logs - Students are required to practice at least 100 minutes per week to receive a 100 for outside practice each week. Signed practice logs are to be turned in the first day of class each week.

Show Choir

The Dunbar Show Choir is a performing group made up of auditioned students who enjoy singing.  It is open to all three grade levels and is an extra-curricular activity.  The Show Choir rehearses on Monday afternoons from 3:10 until 4:25.  There is an activity bus for students who need one or students may be picked up after rehearsal. 

The Show Choir performs many times over the school year.  Performances include a Winter Holiday Concert with the Bands and Orchestras; Guest appearances with the FACination Adult Pop Chorus; a combined choral concert at Glass with the other middle schools and high schools; a competition trip to destinations like Pigeon Forge, TN, Washington, DC or Hershey, PA; and our end of the school year concert also with the Band and Orchestra.

Show Choir is a fun, learning experience for both male and female students. Mr. Albert Carter directs the choir and is assisted by his wife Lori. The students work hard and achieve excellence. The choir has consistently scored superior and excellent ratings and placed high in competitions for over 15 years.

Mr. Carter encourages all students who love music to audition and join Dunbar’s Show Choir.


The Theatre Director, Mr. Carter has been at Dunbar since 1994. Assisted by his wife, Lori and countless parent and alumni volunteers, Mr. Carter directs the students in their theatre season of plays and Broadway musicals. Theatre auditions are open to all students at Dunbar students and the program is an extra-curricular activity.  Rehearsals are held Tuesday through Fridays for each production.

Dunbar produces three to four shows a year; these include One-Act Plays and Broadway Jr. Musicals for competitions, Broadway Plays and Broadway Musicals. Dunbar competes yearly in the Virginia Theatre Association Young People’s Theatre Festival. Dunbar has received Gold Ratings, the highest honor, for the past seven years and has hosted the festival three years. 

Dunbar has also participated in the international Junior Theater Festival held in Atlanta, GA since 2011. Their productions have received high Gold Ratings and the school has garnered numerous Outstanding Achievement Awards in Acting, Music and Technical Theatre. The students have had many professionals judge their performances including the Tony Nominated Director of Disney NEWSIES The Musical, Jeff Calhoun.