Guided by the National Core Arts Standards, students in preschool through kindergarten study music through the context of creative self-expression. Inspired by the Kodály and Orff methods of teaching music, students learn folk songs, nursery rhymes, and singing games as they develop the musical skills of finding voice and pitch and keeping a steady beat. Students engage in creative movement as they listen to music across genres and cultures and are encouraged to improvise and compose music at a developmentally appropriate level.
As students progress through the Lower School, they continue to develop foundational skills in the artistic processes of Creating, Performing, Responding, and Connecting. Students continue to learn a varied repertoire of folk songs, nursery rhymes, and vocal music, and also gain technical skills playing a variety of instruments. Students begin playing both pitched and non-pitched percussion instruments, building both technique and repertoire complexity as they move through the grades.
In addition to learning practical skills, students also study composers’ creative intent, music’s function in societies and cultures, and interdisciplinary connections between music, the arts, and other content areas. The holistic approach of focusing on multiple artistic processes allows students to build the knowledge and skills they need to interact with, understand, consume, create, and enjoy music in whatever capacity they choose to in the future.
Students in lower school participate in a variety of informal classroom-based performances designed to help students share the process of their learning and more formal performances designed to help students demonstrate the product of their learning throughout the school year. Scaffolded performance opportunities are provided based on best practices in child development and can be found on the school’s calendar.
Students in fifth and sixth grade have music class year-round. Students continue to develop their singing voices, singing songs from a wide variety of genres and cultures, and learning to sing in 2- and 3-part harmony. Students study different instruments, including the marimba, ukulele, guitar, piano, and percussion. Students who play other instruments will have the opportunity to incorporate those instruments into the music class. Students learn the basics of music theory, including chords and standard notation. Students also dive deeper into improvisation and composition, studying composers and performers to understand the role that improvisation and composition plays in society.
Students also study how music plays a fundamental part in human culture throughout the world. By studying the histories of different instruments, listening to music from around the world, and learning songs from a variety of cultures, students develop an awareness of both the commonalities shared by humans around the world, as well as the characteristics that make each culture vibrant and unique. In addition to exploring the history of Western art music - "classical” music - students also study modern American music history, including early country and folk, the blues, jazz, and music of the Civil Rights. Students explore aspects of their own identities through music, thinking about their own individual musical tastes as well as how music plays a role in their families.
Students in seventh and eighth grade have mixed-grade Arts Elective classes. These offerings are in visual art, theater, technology, and music. Students take two elective classes per semester for a total of eight elective classes by the end of 8th grade. Students are expected to take at least one elective in each discipline over those two years.
In semester 1, students can take Instrumental Ensemble or Choir. In semester 2, they can take Instrumental Ensemble or Musical Theater.
In the Instrumental Ensemble, students will learn to read music or tablature, play their instrument proficiently, and perform as part of an ensemble. Students will learn a variety of songs from different genres. We will study ensembles from a variety of genres and cultures and discuss what makes them successful. Students will study the role that performance and musical ensembles play in cultures around the world.
Instrumental Ensemble is open to students of any skill level who are interested in playing an instrument in an ensemble. Students who are new to their instrument are encouraged to play ukulele, guitar, or piano, which can be provided by the school. Students who would like to play another instrument (such as a string, brass, or reed instrument) will need to demonstrate a basic proficiency on that instrument, as there will be less direct instruction on their instrument. Vocalists are welcome but will also play an instrument as part of the ensemble.
Students in choir will sing! In this class, we will develop good singing technique, learn to read music, sing in multi-part harmony, and learn a variety of choral music, from pop to classical to musical theater. We will listen to choral and vocal music from around the world and discuss how singing and choirs are an essential part of all human culture. Students will have opportunities to perform at concerts and assemblies throughout the year. Open to singers of all levels!
At Westside, seventh and eighth grade students stage a full-length musical. Using acting, singing, and dancing skills, students rehearse and perform as an ensemble for the Westside community. Students experience going through a full process, from the table read to curtain call. Past productions have included Ghostbusters, Dear Edwina, Annie Jr., and Mary Poppins. The musical is co-taught by the theater and music teachers.