The Music Program at Greenwood

Music is a central component of Greenwood School’s curriculum and is integrated in every classroom at every grade level. Instrumental practice begins in first grade with flutes. In third grade students play recorders daily, and later in the year may start playing the violin. In fourth and fifth grade, students are ready for the challenge of learning to play a string instrument with the choice of a violin, viola, cello, or string bass. In middle school (sixth through eighth grades) they have twice weekly opportunities to deepen their musical abilities in orchestra or guitar class. We intend to provide superior tools and expert instruction so that our students may experience the myriad intrinsic benefits of a music education to the fullest extent. The expectation is that all students complete their music homework as assigned and it is highly recommended that students receive private lessons.

Following are examples of how arts education may be incorporated with both the natural developmental progression of students:

In first grade, students begin their Greenwood School experience into music with the introduction of the pentatonic flute and songs. Children learn finger dexterity and develop their auditory acuteness by learning songs by ear. They also learn proper care of their instrument.

In second grade, students continue and build upon their knowledge of the pentatonic flute. Songs become more complex and simple dynamics are introduced. Creative expression is encouraged as the children begin to play individually before the whole class.

The diatonic soprano recorder is introduced in the third grade. The major and minor scales are experienced through simple two-part rounds and two-part harmonies. Ear training also continues. Folk songs are emphasized and easy beginning classical pieces are introduced. Students are introduced to string instruments, usually through the violin. The emphasis is on producing a beautiful tone quality that has a calming effect on the children, and helps them to truly “hear” the melody. Note reading is introduced and more complex rounds and folk songs are taught by ear.

In fourth grade, students string instruments experience is expanded (with the choice of playing the violin, viola, cello, or string bass) and the study of recorder is continued. Additionally, folk songs from the Gold Rush era may also be tied to lessons on California history.

In fifth grade, students continue to build upon their string instrument and recorder skills. Those who have performed well with the soprano recorder may be offered the challenge of the alto recorder, which requires greater fingering skill. Students learn two- and three-part songs and more advanced musical symbols. Greek modes (e.g. Dorian, Lydian, Aeolian, etc.) are also presented and music notation skills continue.

In sixth grade, those children with the physical capability may be offered the tenor and bass recorders. Medieval madrigals and other four-part harmonies are taught along with dynamics and articulation (e.g. legato, staccato, etc.). The children discover that they too have a musical instrument within them: the larynx.

In the seventh and eighth grades, notes and chords can be taught through ballads, Renaissance music, American folk and popular music. Song writing may be introduced as well as more advanced music theory. Both ensemble and solo playing will be required.

The music program is designed to be integrative and sequential. The music teachers work closely with grade-level teachers to ensure lesson plans are integrated with other disciplines whenever possible. In this way, students are encouraged to make complex connections between different skill sets and areas of knowledge.

Anticipated Outcomes

The arts, and music in particular, are thoroughly integrated with other disciplines throughout the Greenwood School curriculum for several reasons. Studies in arts education have widely noted that the visual and performing arts (1) support the social and emotional development of students and (2) enrich and enliven learning in core academic subjects. As described above for example, music is used in many different ways to enhance concepts in mathematics, literature, and history.

Drawing on the humanistic approach to education espoused by philosopher Rudolf Steiner, we believe that robust instruction in music prepares students to be engaged, thoughtful citizens of the world. Furthermore, researchers in music education have widely noted that the study and creation of music cultivate life skills, such as active listening, teamwork, flexibility, communication, and perseverance.

Greenwood School’s music curriculum is rooted in these findings. Students at each grade level learn to play instruments, play songs, blend musical genres, and most importantly, listen. This not only promotes a sense of self and group discipline, but also encourages positive and healthy social interactions outside the classroom. In addition, our music curriculum encourages independence and self-confidence, as students are encouraged to perform appropriate instrumental pieces at their annual class play, Winter Faire and Spring Concert.