Browning has long sought to provide boys with a balanced and culturally enriched educational experience, and the arts play a major role in that endeavor. Academic courses that assure a certain level of competence in the history and critical analysis of art and music are a required part of the curriculum. It is equally important, however, to foster a deeper appreciation for the arts. To this end, students set their hands to drawing, painting, sculpture and related media, and they display their works in school exhibits and publications. Browning grade-level choirs sing at various assemblies and concerts, and individual student musicians are encouraged to perform. Larger groups receive instruction on Orff instruments. Theatrical performances by all age groups are mounted for assemblies, and often the energies and talents of school artists, musicians and thespians are pulled together into one, unifying effort.
The Arts Program
The purpose of the program is to help each boy develop his own creative style while introducing basic art techniques and the proper use of art equipment and materials. Teachers draw on subject matter close to the student’s world: his own experiences, seasons and holidays, family and the environment. Much of the work is interdisciplinary and connected with classroom curriculum. Drawing, painting, clay work and sculpture, printing and general design work are approached in each successive grade at a slightly more advanced level. Field trips to various museums extend the classroom experience.
This course serves as a very basic introduction to the elements, fundamentals and procedures involved in visual art production. Over the course of the year, students are taken through a series of scaffolded projects designed to introduce materials and processes in the areas of drawing, printmaking, painting and sculpture. Projects are generally inspired by nature, classroom experiences and historical themes. Step-by-step instruction is given in the use and/or application of cray-pas, markers, brushes, glue, scissors, clay, wood forms, paint and glazes. An emphasis is placed on the development of basic technique, proper use of tools and appropriate studio behavior.
The curriculum is aimed at improving the skills and techniques learned in Kindergarten using similar materials and subject matter. Boys are introduced to many different materials and techniques, including paper sculpture, drawing and collage, landscape using cray-pas, printmaking, and masks made with foam core. Students will use clay to make pinch pots and animals, draw with ink, paint with tempera, and use a combination of the above to complete various projects.
By Grade Two, further individualization is encouraged. Techniques and projects become more involved as the boys continue to study the elements of art and principles of design. Over the course of the year, students explore the basics of drawing, collage and sculpture using a variety of materials and processes. Lessons are built around the study of selected works by a wide range of contemporary and modern masters, as well as cross-curricular topics. The course also serves as a further introduction to ceramics and functional form and the use of slab and coil construction. In addition to many works on paper, students produce a functional mug and coil vessel, which is finished with traditional stoneware glaze.
Students assume more responsibility for the preparation of their projects, which consists of many more stages from preliminary studies to the final project. Students are introduced to abstract images through artists like Brice Marden and Wassily Kandinsky. Learning to mix specific colors and using different sized brushes, they paint an abstract composition followed by a self-portrait. After the painting projects are complete, boys work with clay to make clay food and other basic forms.
In Grade Four design and careful work is stressed. The boys have reached a degree of social maturity that allows them to work on large and group projects, which are undertaken over the course of the year. Emphasis is placed on interdisciplinary work with homeroom teacher. This, along with other projects throughout the year, introduces students to a wide range of media, including ink, clay, paint, collage and charcoal.
The Music Program
The purpose of the Lower School music program is to help each boy discover and develop his natural love of music, as well as to provide him with the tools and knowledge to understand and practice key musical concepts. Six major areas of study and performance are used to introduce and strengthen self-expression, skill-building, appreciation of music history, and enjoyment: singing, playing instruments, listening, movement, notation, and the study of composers. Singing is emphasized, and movement and dramatization often accompany songs. The students learn to play Orff instruments (such as xylophones) 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 famous composers, conductors, songwriters and performers, identifying various musical instruments, 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 composers – from the Baroque period to present day musicians. Class presentations during assemblies are given at various points throughout the school year and at special events. Assembly recitals and in-class opportunities provide boys who study an instrument to perform individually in front of their peers during the school day. In the Spring, formal recitals are held with family members in attendance. The two culminating performances of the year are the Holiday Program in December and the Lower School Closing Assembly in June.
The Kindergarten 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 are integrated into this program, helping each student relate to music in a natural way. Students are encouraged to sing in unison as well as in simple rounds; feel and move to the beat of the music individually; and recognize differences in pitch, timbre, tempo, mood and dynamics. Note values are studied, with emphasis on reading simple rhythmic notation. Lines and spaces on the music staff are introduced.
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 greater depth. Movement and drawing are used to illustrate musical form. Specific pitches on the treble clef staff are introduced. These are integrated with the rhythmic note values introduced in Kindergarten.
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 Grade One 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 syllables continue 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 boys learn how to read and write simple rhythmic and melodic patterns on the treble clef staff. Dictation skills build on the foundation begun in Grade Two. 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. In addition, the annual guitar unit gives every fourth-grader the opportunity to learn and play a basic melody on guitar. Skills in reading and writing musical notation are reinforced through singing, movement exercises, playing the recorder and other Orff musical instruments, and dictation. Recognizing and performing more advanced rhythmic and melodic patterns are featured. Harmonically, selected songs and instrumental pieces in major keys are contrasted with similar selections in minor keys. In addition to studying the life and works of famous composers, Grade Four boys learn about the period of music history in which the composer lived and how his or her work related to that era.