Music touches the mind, body, and spirit. Music is a compelling, meaningful, and powerful force in our lives. The serious study of music is vital to the appreciation and understanding of our culture and the cultures of the world. Through listening, performing, and composing, we create opportunities for our students to have a deeper understanding of music.
The music curriculum is based upon learning by experience. This is true from the earliest elementary school classes through high school. The primary goals of the music program are to develop basic music literacy in all of our students and to insure that our students have a basic knowledge of music history and literature. All students take music through eighth grade. In high school, students are required to take one credit in music for graduation and may take additional classes for elective credit; it is the rare student who completes only one music course in his or her high school career.
The music curriculum is organized as an inverted pyramid. As beginning musicians, students learn general skills and concepts. As they develop, they have access to a wide variety of performance, composition, and theory courses, so they may explore their own creative musical impulses.
Nursery School, Kindergarten, and Lower School Music
The Orff philosophy is the foundation for our Lower School music classes. This philosophy places emphasis on fine and gross motor skills. Research shows these skills directly improve reading, math, and coordination. Singing is a daily experience in the lower school music classroom. Additionally, movement, instrumental accompaniment, and improvisation are used on a regular basis. All children are encouraged to respect each other's efforts, as well as to be accepting partners in any game or movement. Children learn to listen, observe, and evaluate their own efforts and musical growth. Various types and styles of music are introduced in class to help instill in children an appreciation for their music and the music of others.
Nursery School students experience music in their self-contained classrooms. Beginning in kindergarten, instruction is by music specialists. Kindergartners engage in music through guided exploration that allows them musical self-expression. Children learn songs, follow simple dance and movement directions, and experience rhythm with both Orff and Dalcroze pedagogy.
First and Second Grade
First and second graders further develop their understanding of pitch, melody, and rhythm by being the musicians and dancers themselves. As an example, in second grade, students create an original song based on a nursery rhyme text using a pentatonic scale. In addition to being introduced to the basic elements of music, students are also exposed to various aspects of music such as syncopation, and how these terms relate to things they hear, sing, and enjoy.
Third Graders sing more complicated melodies with longer texts. The accompaniments are longer and more complex, and two-part singing is introduced, requiring further demands on each child's musicianship, focus, and concentration. The increased use of the Orff instrumentarium helps to develop the student's skill, musicianship, and growing sense of musical aesthetics. The children realize that they are truly becoming musicians.
Mid-year, students begin playing the recorder. Fine and gross motor skills are an important aspect of this process. Additional musicals terms and directions are introduced and students begin to develop an awareness through playing the recorder of the importance of practice as one of the keys to improvement.
Students in fourth grade receive instruction from five different members of the music faculty, with each teacher placing an emphasis on a different aspect of the musical experience (composition, choral singing, recorder playing, rhythm, etc.) Approximately every ten class sessions, the children rotate to a different instructor.
A key component of the fourth grade curriculum is preparing students for fifth grade. Instrument and vocal demonstrations are given, as well as time for each child to try the various instruments taught in fifth grade, so that families can make informed decisions in regard to how their child will receive musical instruction the following year.
Middle School Music
General music, as a non-public performance class, continues to build on the skills and concepts begun in grades kindergarten through four including singing, recorder, and use of the Orff instrumentarium. Students study music notation, theory, history, and literature.
Beginning in fifth grade and continuing through eighth grade, the middle school music curriculum also offers students a choice of band, choir, and string orchestra. Students selecting band or string orchestra begin the study of an instrument in a group setting and are expected to practice at home on a regular basis. Performance groups (band, choir, and orchestra) give two formal concerts a year, demonstrating skills and techniques developed during the course of the semester.
In grades six through eight, students in performance classes (band, choir, orchestra) perform increasingly complex compositions for the school community at formal concerts, assemblies, and graduation ceremonies.
High School Music
High school students in music continue to build upon their middle school experience. They continue to develop the skills necessary to become increasingly competent performers in both instrumental and choral ensembles. In addition, a program in jazz performance is added. Students in this program work to develop skills in jazz theory, ensemble playing, and solo improvisation.
There are several non-performance classes offered. Included are general music, music history and literature, music theory, and a studio class in composition. Students who take advantage of these offerings are well prepared to continue in music through their college years and beyond.