The Music Program

Philosophy

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 reading and writing 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 and writing notation and performing instrumental music as an ensemble is stressed in the Middle School.

Grade Five
Grade Five Music builds on the skills learned in Grade Four. Reading treble clef notation is practiced through playing Orff instruments (xylophones and metallophones), as well as the recorder. Students begin with 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 is reinforced by using the Kodaly solfège syllables, and the boys practice reading the notation with pitch letter names (A, B, C, D, E, F, G), solfège syllables and rhythm syllables. Recorder technique emphasizes playing music written for the instrument in the Renaissance and Baroque eras, and the history of these periods becomes a relevant musical topic of study.

Grade Six
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.

Form I
Form I Music focuses on ensemble performance using several types of musical instruments. Following an introductory unit that reviews basic knowledge of theory and mastery of sight-reading skills, the students learn to play performance pieces on hand chimes, recorders and African drums. For their ensemble debut as a class, the Form I boys are traditionally featured playing a number of their hand chime pieces during the annual Browning Holiday Program. Emphasis is on developing an ensemble technique and the discipline required to achieve a coordinated group effort.

Form II
Form II Music is designed to review and refine performance technique on the various instruments the boys have learned to play during their Middle School years, as well as introduce the study of music history. For their ensemble debut as a class, the Form II boys are traditionally featured playing djembes during the annual Browning Thanksgiving Assembly. Emphasis is on developing an ensemble technique and the discipline required to achieve a coordinated group effort. The complexity of the material and subtlety of interpretation are distinguishing features of this level of study.

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 Holiday Program, and the 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 also 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).

Ovation Orchestra
The Browning Ovation Orchestra provides an opportunity for students who play violin, viola, cello, as well as brass and woodwind instruments, to prepare music from the standard repertoire for performances such as the Holiday Program, the Middle School Music Recital, and special assemblies for the Parents’ Association and Lower School boys. Focus is on building technical mastery on the instrument and developing a unified ensemble sound.