The pedagogical approach of the Lower School Music Department encompasses the musical development of the whole child through a wide variety of skills and activities. These include: active participation, focused attention, musical literacy, composition, improvisation, creative expression, and the ability to work as an ensemble. These experiences lead to skilled and joyous musical performance.
In the Pre-Kindergarten through First Grade, music is team-taught and integrated with both creative movement and Spanish. Movement work serves to mentally and physically prepare the children for their musical studies and can also extend musical activities. Spanish is seamlessly integrated into songs and games, allowing the children to gain familiarity with the sound and pronunciation of the language in a relaxed and informal manner.
Healthy vocal production, rhythmic proficiency, and the connection between musical sound and symbolic notation all begin in the Pre-Kindergarten and become increasingly formalized and specific with each successive year. World Music, the introduction of Kodaly based vocal technique, and the frequent use of the Orff tonebar instruments characterize much of the work in Grades 1-2, with recorder instruction added in Grade 3. Composition and improvisation are also frequently employed both for their own sake and as a tool to consolidated concepts and skills.
In the Fourth Grade, music instruction becomes more specialized, and children may choose to pursue either a full year of instruction on the violin or cello, performing repertoire tailored to include both experienced players and beginners, or they may study “General Music.” General Music students spend half the year working on vocal technique and music literacy and the other half on the study of recorder, composition, and exposure to wind instruments.
Lower School Music culminates in the Fifth Grade with the choice of participation in three ensembles: Band, Chorus, or Strings. Band students may choose from a range of wind instruments while String students are offered instruction in violin, viola, cello, or bass. Choral members are broken into two vocal parts, soprano and alto. In addition, Fourth and Fifth Graders with previous instrumental experience are also offered the opportunity to participate in a Chamber Music program.
Musical performance is a cherished part of the Lower School experience and serves as a series of milestones in their musical development. Full grade concerts are presented by the Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten as well as a Grade Three Recorder Concert, a Fourth Grade Concert, and lively performances in the Winter and Spring by the Fifth Grade ensemble groups.
Marie Verde, the Lower School music teacher, teaches children that singers use their bodies as their instruments.