By the time he enters Middle School, a Browning boy has already received training in five fundamental aspects of music: singing, playing instruments, listening, movement, and notation. The focus of the Middle School music program is on expanding awareness and appreciation of the more subtle aspects of these five areas of musical experience. Building upon the Lower School training, fluency in reading notation and performing instrumental music as an ensemble is stressed in the Middle School.
Grade Five music builds on the skills learned in Grade Four. Reading notes in the treble clef is achieved by work on Orff instruments (xylophones and glockenspiels), as well as on the recorder. Students learn the structure of the pentatonic scale and the intervals that are produced in reference to the “home pitch.” The concept of half and whole steps are reinforced by use of the Kodaly sol-fa syllables and the boys learn to move fluently between reading the notation with pitch letter names (A, B, C, D, E, F, G) and the sol-fa syllables. Recorder technique emphasizes playing music written for the instrument in the Renaissance and Baroque periods, and the history of these periods becomes a relevant musical experience. The boys also attend educational concerts during the school year to expand their musical horizons.
Grade Six music raises the bar of technical proficiency on the xylophone and recorder. Working with two mallets and playing accompaniment chords to a melodic line are emphasized in order to create homophonic textures and the beginnings of ensemble technique. Students study the structure of the major scale, the intervals that are produced in reference to its “home pitch,” and how to transpose melodies to different key areas. Recorder skills advance to playing songs in two parts on the soprano recorder as well as learning to play the alto recorder and reading the notation of this “transposing” (F tuned) instrument. By the end of the year the boys are able to play three-part pieces on recorder (two soprano and one alto) and compose their own melodies on the instrument. The boys also attend special educational concerts during the school year in order to expand their musical horizons.
Form I music begins an exploration of performance on several types of musical instruments. Following an introductory unit that reviews basic theory knowledge and sight-reading skills, the students learn to play performance pieces on Orff instruments, hand chimes, recorders, and African drums. Emphasis is on developing an ensemble technique and the discipline required to achieve a coordinated group effort.
Form II Fine Arts
Form II fine arts consists of one trimester’s study in each of three areas: music performance, art, and computer graphics. One third of the class is enrolled in each of these areas, and at the start of the following trimester, the groups rotate into a discipline yet to be studied. By the end of the year, all Form II boys will have completed work in each of these three areas. In the music component of the rotation, students choose the project and the instruments they would most like to play. The complexity of the material and subtlety of interpretation are distinguishing features of this level of study. This class provides an intense, one-trimester opportunity to perform in an ensemble on an instrument of the student’s choice. In the computer component of the rotation, students are encouraged to create graphic and Web-based animations utilizing the most up-to-date multimedia software packages. Software packages have included Adobe Photoshop, an image-editing software, and Macromedia Flash, the industry standard for creating Web animations.
Middle School Chorus
The Browning Middle School Chorus provides an opportunity for students to sing with boys from different grade levels and prepare music for performances such as the Thanksgiving assembly, Holiday Program, and Interschool Choral Festival. Focus is on producing a free and healthy sound, and reinforcing sight-singing skills learned in the classroom. Special attention is given to the cambiata (changing) voices in the group. The boys participate in a choral adjudication at the end of the year and celebrate their hard work after the competition with a day at Six Flags Great Adventure (or comparable venue).