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Music Curriculum

Lower School

Kindergarten through 3rd grade

The music program for students in kindergarten through grade three focuses on developing a lifelong love and appreciation of music. Students’ natural enthusiasm is tapped as they begin to learn the basic elements of music: rhythm, melody, timbre, texture, and basic elemental form. Strong ties to literacy and concepts in rhythm are emphasized. Singing is a vital part of this hands-on program and instrumental activities follow the Orff-Schulwerk methodology. Students also learn how to be active listeners and how to describe what they hear.

4th & 5th Grade

Fourth and fifth graders move capably through a variety of musical media, including singing, dancing, and playing all classroom instruments. Recorder is introduced in 4th grade, enabling students to develop skills in note reading, melody and rhythm, and continues in the 5th. Students begin to learn to perform accurately and independently, use good posture, position themselves correctly when playing or singing, and control their breathing. Many activities follow the Orff-Schulwerk methodology. Students are encouraged to develop discerning ears when listening to all music, and learn to describe what they hear using new vocabulary.


 

Middle School

Middle School General Music

In Middle School, the approach to music is a balance of general music unit studies and performance-based activities. During this vocally transitional adolescent period, emphasis is placed on the unique qualities of each individual's voice and how it can best be used, while grade level units offer a wide range of areas to be explored.

General music units are designed to take students’ prior musical knowledge and apply it to cultural, historical, and societal musical topics. Students continue with listening activities and vocabulary expansion as they describe what they hear and think critically about how it fits in with the given topic of study. Voices are developed for the purposes of performance. Due to the emphasis on singing and the skills it requires, students spend time practicing instead of always moving on to new information. Concepts must not only be understood but demonstrated, which requires a certain amount of guided practice or rehearsal.

6th-Grade Orchestra

Sixth grade orchestra is primarily a fourth-year course in string instruction. The emphasis is on learning to play independently as a soloist and cooperatively as an ensemble musician. The group performs a minimum of two times during the year and has numerous other opportunities to play on- and off-campus throughout the year. Practice at home is required.

7th-Grade Orchestra

Seventh Grade Orchestra is primarily a fourth-year course in string instruction. The emphasis is in learning to play independently as a soloist and cooperatively as an ensemble musician. The group is also open to those playing piano and keyboard on a limited basis. Students playing wind and percussion instruments and wishing to perform in a group are invited to do so. The group performs a minimum of three times during the year and has numerous other opportunities to play on and off campus throughout the year. Practice at home is required. Private lessons reinforce and further what is taught in class, and are encouraged.

Topics include review of notes on all strings, including naturals, sharps, flats, and extensions. Shifting into higher positions is introduced. Music is in simple meters. Music in compound meters is introduced along with syncopation and more complex rhythmic combinations.

8th-Grade Orchestra

Eighth Grade Orchestra is a mixed ensemble of fifth-year advanced players of all instruments. It is primarily a string orchestra. The emphasis is on playing chamber and orchestra literature from many areas of music, including classical, holiday, contemporary, bluegrass, show, jazz, Medieval, and Renaissance. The music chosen is generally challenging. Practice at home is required. Private lessons reinforce and further what is taught in class, and are encouraged.

Jazz Band

Jazz Band is a new offering this year. This ensemble, which includes both instrumentalists and vocalists, is open to any student who plays an instrument not included in the strings program, including trumpet, trombone, saxophone, clarinet, flute, piano, percussion, guitar, or bass. In addition to rehearsals, the class takes trips to hear and work with other jazz bands, and guest clinicians are invited to work with the group. This group also has an exciting opportunity to participate in an artist-in-residence program this year. This includes a week-long residence with a jazz performer who works with students and participates in the Lake Ridge Academy Jazz Festival in April.


 

Upper School

Choir

This class teaches students how to be a productive member of a choral ensemble. Students must be able to sing independently and flexibly in order to accommodate a variety of choral literature. On an individual level, there is a major emphasis on vocal production and development. On an ensemble level, there is an emphasis on commitment to and communication of the message of the music as it is represented by the harmonies and texts. Basics of singing and theory are reinforced throughout the year as weaknesses do or do not arise among the singers.

Music Theory & Composition

Fundamentals of Western music theory and harmony are presented. Aural training exercises prepare students to compose original pieces and arrange existing pieces in four-part harmony. Students become familiar with the keyboard in order to assist them in their composition and theory understanding. Traditional composition methods take place using manuscript paper and Sibelius, a music-writing program. Garage Band and Adobe Audition are used for composition purposes and to give students experience with manipulating sound and recordings.