Our Lower School Classroom Music curriculum is based on methods and materials from the First Steps in Music, Conversational Solfege, and Orff-Schulwerk approach to music education. We involve students in active music-making through singing, speaking, playing instruments, creative movement, and dance.
Musical skills at the Lower School level are developed over time in a carefully sequenced set of objectives designed to help students become more Tuneful, Beatful, and Artful. Lessons are structured around an 8-part musical workout: Pitch Exploration (Vocal Warm-ups), Fragment Singing (Echo songs and Call & Response songs), Simple Songs, Arioso (Student-created Tunes), Songtales, Movement Exploration (Movement Warm-ups), Movement for Form and Expression, and Movement with the Beat.
Starting in 2nd grade Musical Literacy becomes part of every lesson using Conversational Solfege, a program designed to take students through a 12-step sequence that leads from rote learning, to reading notation, to finally writing and creating with music notation. Students proceed through a
a series Units, usually 2 per year, each focusing on particular rhythmic or melodic patterns.
Orff-Schulwerk activities with barred instruments are integrated into lessons in grades 3-5. These upper grades work on Orff arrangements involving multiple parts and instruments, challenging students with melodies, harmonic and ostinato playing on xylophones, metalophones, and glockenspiels. Younger students use smaller, hand-held percussion instruments in beat-keeping activities.
Movement and Singing are a part of every lesson for all Lower School music students. Every class we explore a Movement Theme inspired by the work of Rudolf Laban. The 10 Themes we cycle through are: Awareness of Body Parts & Whole, Awareness of Time, Awareness of Space, Awareness of Levels, Awareness of Weight, Awareness of Locomotion, Awareness of Flow, Awareness of Shape, Awareness of Others, and Student Created Movement. Each class we do an activity chosen for students to experience one of these 10 themes.
Singing is developed every class by having students do a Vocal Warm-up activity, singing echo and Call & Response songs, and having students learn some "Simple" songs. In all three of these areas (Pitch Exploration, Fragment Singing, and Simple Songs) students will first listen, then perform many times as a group, and ultimately must perform the material as a solo. Having students sing by themselves, in a non-threatening and well-prepared way, is the best way to achieve growth and improvement in students singing. Our focus is on getting students comfortable with singing using their "head voice", or upper register of their voice. If they can do that, then we know that their singing will be more in tune and of a better quality than if they cannot access their head voice.