The purpose of the Lower School music program is to help each boy discover and develop his natural love of music. Five major areas of study and performance are used to heighten awareness and understanding of musical concepts as well as provide a means of self-expression and enjoyment: singing, playing instruments, listening, movement, and notation. Singing is emphasized, and movement and dramatization often accompany songs. The students learn to play Orff instruments as well as other percussion instruments individually, in small groups, and in larger ensembles. Hearing “what’s happening” in the music, understanding the role of composers, conductors, songwriters and performers, moving to the beat and feel of the music, and reading and writing at a basic level serve to enhance each boy’s appreciation and assimilation of musical concepts. Focus on rhythm, pitch differentiation, timbre, dynamics, and improvisation is given at each grade level in greater depth. Integrated into the elementary music curriculum is the Composer of the Month series, in which students learn about the life and works of nine famous composers. Class presentations during assemblies are given at various points throughout the school year and at special events. The two culminating performances of the year are the Holiday Program in December and the Lower School Closing Assembly in June.
The Pre-Primary music program emphasizes singing, clapping rhythmic patterns, and playing instruments with confidence as well as moving and listening to many different kinds of music. Basic musical concepts are introduced using songs and circle games, ostinato patterns, and exercises designed to develop reading and writing skills. The methodologies of Orff and Kodaly play a major role in this program, helping each student relate to music in a natural way. Students are encouraged to sing in unison; feel and move to the beat of the music individually; and recognize differences in pitch, timbre, tempo, mood, and dynamics.
In Grade One music, the development of the singing voice continues. The use of Kodaly solfège syllables and the playing of Orff and other instruments serve to increase the students’ awareness and understanding of simple melodic and rhythmic patterns found in varied songs and listening selections. Emphasis is placed on helping each student experience the confidence and enjoyment of producing music vocally and instrumentally. Timbre, dynamics, and other basic musical concepts are studied in more depth. Movement and drawing are used to illustrate musical form. During the course of the school year, note-heads are added to the rhythmic notation learned in Pre-Primary music. The treble clef staff is introduced.
The use of Kodaly and Orff methodologies continues in Grade Two music. Singing in unison as well as solo continues to be emphasized. During the latter part of the school year, harmony singing is introduced with simple rounds and melodic ostinati. More advanced combinations of rhythmic and melodic patterns are introduced for performance, listening, movement, and notation. Continued progress in the area of “keeping the beat” to music is advanced through the use of circle games, stressing hand-eye coordination both with and without rhythm instruments while singing songs specifically chosen for this purpose. Building on the familiarity of the treble clef staff introduced in First Grade music, more notes are added and dictation is introduced. Examples of classical and contemporary music are used throughout the school year to enhance each student’s development in understanding musical concepts.
In Grade Three music, discipline, enjoyment, and confidence are reinforced. Vocally, unison and solo singing dominate the curriculum with simple harmonic parts and rounds being used to enhance selected songs. The Kodaly solfège system continues to be used to improve the students’ understanding and performing of melodies. Songs and instrumental works are chosen to illustrate the specific melodic intervals being studied in greater depth. More advanced rhythmic and melodic patterns are introduced using Orff and other rhythm instruments. In the area of notation, the students learn how to read and write simple rhythmic and melodic patterns on the treble clef staff. Dictation skills build on the foundation begun in Second Grade. From the U.S. and around the world, many styles and eras of music are incorporated into the program, highlighting popular composers while studying the differences and similarities in timbres of various instruments used in their compositions.
In Grade Four music, increased awareness of healthy vocal technique and a basic understanding of music theory are emphasized. Instrumentally, boys are introduced to the recorder. Skills in reading and writing musical notation are reinforced through singing, movement exercises, playing the recorder and other classroom musical instruments, and dictation. Recognizing and performing more advanced rhythmic and melodic patterns is featured. Harmonically, major triads are introduced and used to construct simple chord progressions. In addition to studying the life and works of famous composers, Grade Four boys begin to learn about the period of music history in which the composer lived and how his or her work related to that era.