Music instruction is an important component of a child’s total education at the Laboratory Schools. The benefits of music education have been well documented over the years. Music is not only worthy of study in and of itself, but helps students to perform better in other areas, and aids in the development of critical thinking skills. To quote noted educator Elliot Eisner, “The arts teach children that problems can have more than one solution, and that questions can have more than one answer.”
Orff and Kodaly methodologies provide the structure of lower school music pedagogy. Classes are taught by specialists, and each class meets two to three times per week, depending upon grade level. In fourth grade, music classes meet on a rotational basis that involves five different music teachers. Each fourth grader has music twice a week throughout the year, but they rotate through each of five music instructors. This is also the year when students are introduced to the instruments that are available for study beginning in fifth grade.
In fifth grade, students may choose to study a string instrument as part of orchestra class, a brass or woodwind instrument as part of band class, or continue in a traditional general music class, which provides a mix of vocal study, music history, and the basic elements of music. Again, instruction is provided by music specialists, most classes are team-taught, and the class schedule allows for small group instruction. Sixth grade music follows the same curricular and class structure that began in fifth grade.
Seventh and eighth grade music classes are similar, with the addition of a general music class for students looking for a broader base of musical study. All middle school performance ensembles give both fall and spring concerts. In addition to the large groups (band, choir, orchestra) we have middle school chamber music for winds, and for strings, and a middle school jazz band.
In high school, each of the larger ensembles is available for students, band, choir, and orchestra. In addition, there is a jazz studies program, a general music class, AP music theory, history and literature of music, and an electronic music studio where students create and record original compositions. Two smaller auditioned choral ensembles are available to high schoolers, as well as various chamber music groups.
The Laboratory Schools Music Department consists of ten full-time faculty, supported by a part-time secretary. Department members represent a wide variety of teaching and musical experiences, with many still active as performers in the Chicago area. Department members are also involved in various professional organizations such as Music Educator’s National Conference, the Chicago Area Kodaly Educator’s Conference, Illinois Music Educator’s Association, and the Independent Schools Association Central States.
The overall goal of the music program at Lab is to provide each student with a solid grounding in music fundamentals, and the opportunity for in-depth study and exploration of various aspects of music, be they performing a vocal solo, rehearsing a string quartet, or creating an original composition. We want to give students the tools they need to study and perform, as well as the confidence and inspiration to pursue whatever music they find inspiring. Finally, we want students to leave Lab School with critical listening skills, and as educated consumers of the arts. All of this, as part of one of the great independent schools in Chicago.
For more info & concert schedule: UCLS Music Department Blog