The Music Program
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, understanding the expressive tools of music, utilizing those tools to create music that expresses emotion, and fluency in reading and writing notation is stressed in the Middle School.
Grade Five Music builds on the skills learned in Grade Four. Students begin their study of music theory with the structure of the major and minor scales, and the intervals that are produced in reference to the “home pitch.” Aural training of major and minor intervals is reinforced by singing popular songs. The boys practice their fluency of treble clef and partial bass clef notation, as well as their understanding of expressive tools and musical terminology by singing and discussing the music of various female composers. In the second half of the year Grade Five boys compose their own music using cloud-based music software, synthesizing their musical learning.
Grade Six Music raises the bar of musical comprehension and aural skills. Students begin to recognize and replicate wider intervals, and begin singing in simple homophonic and polyphonic harmonies. Students continue to study the structure of the major & minor scales, the intervals that are produced in reference to its “home pitch,” and how to transpose melodies to different key areas. Fluency of treble and bass clef notation and understanding of expressive tools is achieved by singing and discussing music of various composers. By the end of the year the boys are able to compose (using cloud-based software) a “film score”, and discuss music using a variety of musical terminologies.
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 boys learn to play performance pieces on hand chimes, 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 placed on developing an ensemble technique and the discipline required to achieve a coordinated group effort. The boys develop a greater understanding of how music and musicians influence and comment on the world around them.
Form II Music is designed to review and refine performance technique on djembe drums, as well as tackle more complex aural skills, drawing from Paul Hindemith’s body of work at Yale. 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. In the second semester the boys undertake the study of a major composer of the classical canon, and compose their own recitative. 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. The focus is on producing a free and healthy sound and reinforcing sight-singing skills learned in the classroom. However, technique is not the end, but the means, and much of the rehearsal time is focussed around communication and expression of emotion. 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 Park.
The Browning Ovation Orchestra provides an opportunity for students who play orchestral 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 placed on building technical mastery on the instrument, developing a unified ensemble sound, and achieving greater fluency in reading music.