Walnut Hill School for the Arts: Nurturing Tomorrow’s Creative Minds

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

a group female ballet dancers performing at a stage

Walnut Hill School for the Arts: Nurturing Tomorrow’s Creative Minds

The art world is full of schools that claim to offer an unparalleled education for aspiring artists. However, few can match the reputation, dedication, and nurturing environment at Walnut Hill School for the Arts. This prestigious institution is located in Natick, Massachusetts, at the forefront of shaping young creative minds.

What is Walnut Hill Known for?

The Walnut Hill School for the Arts is an independent boarding and day high school offering an immersive and intensive educational experience designed for student artists in grades 9–12. The school provides world-class dance, music, theater, visual art, writing, film & media arts training. These are complemented by an innovative college-preparatory academic curriculum. Set on a safe and classic New England campus, it’s conveniently situated just outside the cultural hub of Boston. In 2023, it celebrates its 50th year as a global arts leader.

Art student with art professor checking students work

Every facet of the school’s program fosters its students’ evolution as audacious artists, curious learners, and conscientious citizens. Students from all over the country and worldwide converge to form a dynamic community on its picturesque Natick, Massachusetts campus. Under the guidance of master teachers and bolstered by peers from myriad artistic backgrounds, Walnut Hill students graduate equipped to thrive in college and beyond.

Walnut Hill’s legacy began in 1893, founded by Wellesley College graduates Florence Bigelow and Charlotte Conant. For over 80 years, it remained a pinnacle of education for young women. Even as a traditional private boarding school for girls, Walnut Hill’s arts programs were revered.

The school was home to the acclaimed Fenway Studio artist and teacher Marion Pooke, Class of 1901, and the Pulitzer Prize–winning author and Poet Laureate Elizabeth Bishop, Class of 1930. In the 1970s, recognizing the shift in educational paradigms, Walnut Hill transformed into a coeducational arts school, maintaining its legacy of exceptional artistic training and enriching academic experiences.

What Programs are Offered at Walnut Hill?

As a school for the arts, Walnut Hill offers five major arts programs: Dance, Music, Theater, Visual Art, and Writing & Publishing. Each program is designed to meet its students’ unique needs and aspirations, ensuring they gain both the technical proficiency and creative expression they need to succeed in the professional world.


Inspired by the diverse repertoire of the Boston Ballet, the school’s intricately designed syllabus aims to sculpt dancers who are both adaptable and proficient, ensuring they meet the varied expectations of the modern dance environment. This spans classics from Petipa to the revolutionary styles of Balanchine and Kylián. Its curriculum encompasses essential areas like Technique, Pointe, Men’s Class, Pas de Deux, Variations, Repertoire, Modern, Character, Pilates, Men’s Conditioning, and specialized workshops, notably the Forsythe technique.

The entire teaching and administrative body is unwavering in its dedication to the student’s holistic growth. The institution collaborates with Boston Children’s Hospital medical professionals to promote and embed health-conscious behaviors in our students.

Its health and wellness experts offer comprehensive services, from hands-on physical therapy and doctor consultations to nutrition guidance and injury prevention. The school has deliberately aligned with wellness associates known for their adeptness in catering to the nuanced needs of budding dance students.

Once you get your high school diploma from Walnut Hill, your credentials will be assessed for potential admittance into the esteemed one-year Graduate Program of Boston Ballet. After the culmination of this program, the doors open for you to vie for a coveted spot in Boston Ballet II. This intensive two-year journey is crafted to seamlessly transition dancers into professional tiers, serving as the crucial link between rigorous preparation and a flourishing dance vocation.


Walnut Hill’s music program stands uniquely as the sole high school initiative that forges a bond between a preeminent conservatory, the New England Conservatory (NEC), and an independent educational institution. This collaboration immerses students in a multifaceted music curriculum administered across Walnut Hill and NEC settings.

Students have the flexibility to specialize in areas such as orchestral instruments, piano, vocals, composition, or jazz. Augmenting the curriculum, students benefit from avant-garde performance endeavors, interactive master classes led by prominent guest artists, and the deliberate incorporation of modern-day subjects like entrepreneurship and civic involvement.

Being strategically located near Boston, Walnut Hill offers students the privilege of experiencing an array of ensemble and solo concerts in the city’s premier concert venues. The program, set within a stimulating and artistically rich environment, equips graduates to excel in conservatories, universities, or colleges.


Theater at Walnut Hill delivers a holistic program tailored for enthusiastic, committed, and inquisitive budding artists. Rooted in the Stanislavsky method, the focus remains firmly on the actor. This rigorous triad training encompassing the mind, voice, and body molds performers capable of seamlessly portraying genuine and captivating narratives, blending text, choreography, and melody.

a director coaching actors for their performance

Beyond equipping students with elite acting skills, the program instills a profound respect for design and production through theoretical studies and hands-on experience. The faculty creates a nurturing environment, motivating students to immerse themselves profoundly and purposefully in their artistic pursuits. Through in-studio exercises, live performance avenues, and individualized mentoring, students are shaped with the professional finesse and mindset essential for thriving in higher-level conservatory education.

Visual Art

At Walnut Hill, students delve deep into the core principles of artistic concepts while navigating a spectrum of techniques and materials. Young artists refine their innate talents, benefitting from hands-on experiences, mentorship from the faculty, and insights from fellow students’ creations.

Courses span an array of subjects, from sketching, pottery, and canvas arts to photography and fashion design. These are spearheaded by faculty mentors who, being seasoned artists themselves, stay abreast of the ever-changing artistic landscape. The department, as a whole, champions the journey of creation, strikes a harmony between concentration and enjoyment, and applauds innovative endeavors.

Beyond crafting a personal portfolio, dedicated artistic endeavors empower students to cultivate deeper self-insight, boost their confidence, and foster an adaptable mindset, all pivotal for their success in subsequent ventures.

Writing, Film & Media Arts

Stories come alive in writing, film, and media arts—whether on paper, the theater stage, or the digital screen. At Walnut Hill, the emphasis is on understanding that the journey of creation is as significant as the result. The school fosters a belief that integrated arts exposure shapes students into adaptable artisans. Their program provides a fertile ground for students to craft and nurture their distinctive style and perspective.

Engaging studio classes, hands-on practicums, and specialized sessions led by distinguished guest artists invite students to immerse in weaving compelling tales through text and visuals. Across all specializations, the school’s compassionate faculty aids students in refining the competencies and practices essential for entering higher education with creative flair and technical prowess.

What truly sets Walnut Hill School for the Arts apart is its ethos. It’s not just about producing artists; it’s about nurturing well-rounded individuals who appreciate the arts’ value and understand their responsibility as artists. The school instills a sense of community, collaboration, and purpose, ensuring students are prepared for a career in the arts and life itself.

What is the Academic Experience Like at Walnut Hill?

At Walnut Hill School for the Arts, the academic framework is tailored to harness and nurture the innate traits of a budding artist’s intellect—meticulous observation, discerning analysis, and a quest for profound and lasting comprehension. The school’s curriculum underscores a methodical approach, highlighting experiential and project-centric learning, prompting students to appreciate diverse viewpoints when navigating intricate problems.

Every student undertakes a rigorous, university-readiness curriculum alongside their chosen arts specialization. The academic structure is structured such that students engage with a limited number of subjects concurrently, fostering a deep and genuine connection with the material. This not only sparks their inherent inquisitiveness but also cements their knowledge. By mastering both the content and the essential skills, students gain a richer perspective for their artistic endeavors and a broader insight into the world surrounding them.

How Hard is it to Get Into Walnut Hill?

Walnut Hill seeks students demonstrating a robust commitment to academics, art, and personal development. If you decide to join, be ready to evolve and face challenges during your tenure at Walnut Hill. Each year, the school admits fewer than 50% of its applicants.

A female student using a laptop.

The deadline for Early Decision is November 1, with the audition/portfolio review & interview completion deadline being December 1. For those who apply by November 1 and finalize their audition/portfolio review by December 1, admission decisions will be communicated by December 15.

The Regular Decision Deadline is set for January 15, with an audition/portfolio review & interview completion deadline of March 1. If you apply by January 15 and conclude your audition/portfolio review by March 1, you can expect an admission decision by March 15. Approximately 34% of Walnut Hill students are granted need-based financial aid.

In Conclusion

Walnut Hill School for the Arts stands as a beacon for aspiring artists. Through its rigorous programs, dedicated faculty, and nurturing environment, the school plays a pivotal role in shaping the future of the arts. For those dreaming of a life immersed in creativity, Walnut Hill is more than just a school; it’s a journey of discovery, growth, and artistic fulfillment.

Want to learn more about your chances of getting into the best art school in the country? At AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process.

AdmissionSight can help you put your best foot forward when applying to college this fall. Contact us today for more information on our services.


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