Middle School Music

 

Overview

 
The Scarsdale Middle School Music Program offers two pathways of study for developing skills and building on content knowledge gained from sequential K-5 music experiences: performance-based ensembles, and Exploring Music (classroom music). The performance-based ensembles include band, chorus, and string orchestra. While Exploring Music does not include concerts in the evening, there are avenues for performance within the class period itself. All courses offer rich opportunities for self-expression and aesthetic growth as students with different learning styles and interests demonstrate their learning over time.

 

In the performance-based ensembles, through repertoire and instrumental or vocal instruction, students are engaged in critical and creative thinking, fostered further through reflection, both written and oral. Musical literacy is integral in the learning experience. A goal is to develop the potential of each ensemble member, thereby promoting lifelong learners who enjoy and value the arts experience.

 

Exploring Music is a comprehensive curriculum that promotes hands-on learning. Experiences range from literacy with the elements of music to beginning composition and opportunities with music technology. The program is strengthened by collaboration of the music teachers, who help students make connections between historical, social, and cultural events and music.

 

Performance-Based Ensembles (Band, Chorus, & String Orchestra)

The descriptions for band, chorus, and string orchestra presented here are not intended as itemized course syllabi, but rather summarize our local curriculum. New York State Learning Standards and National Standards for Music provide the framework for the ensemble curricula. See the Music Educators National Conference website to view these performance standards: http://www.menc.org/resources/view/national-standards-for-music-education

 

Band

Band is open to students who already play a band instrument and have been recommended by their elementary band director. The performance literature covers a broad spectrum of music, including traditional and contemporary arrangements from the standard and modern repertoire. The curriculum is designed to develop ensemble skills and to further technique on a given instrument, including a solid foundation of music theory concepts. Skills of sight-reading, ear training, and notating music are practiced in order to reach a certain level of musicianship. Critical and creative thinking skills and reflective practice are fostered at every rehearsal and allow for personal growth and development within the ensemble setting.

 

Each grade level ensemble is divided into four sections, each of which meets on alternate days within the school day. Home practice is expected, and methods of how to practice are taught in class. As per New York State Learning Standards for Music, students perform, analyze, compose and explore various cultures using selected repertoire. Additionally, there is one early morning rehearsal per week that meets at 7:30 a.m.; attendance at this rehearsal is mandatory. The bands perform two concerts each year, one in the winter and one in the spring, and attendance at these performances is also mandatory.

 

Band: Sixth Grade

Upon completing sixth grade, students will:

  • understand the process of developing a good basic sound/tone on an instrument, including posture, breath support, breath control, and instrument maintenance
  • understand the role that breath, posture and breath support play in endurance and health
  • understand and apply the elements of music, including pitch, rhythm, tempo, dynamics and articulation
  • understand and apply the musical symbol system
  • understand the relationship between the elements of music and begin to make connections necessary to performing music in an ensemble
  • understand the relationship among the elements of music and how they create musical meaning
  • begin to critically listen to recordings of the ensemble for evaluation/reflection
  • begin to use the recording/self-evaluation process at home during practice time
  • begin to understand the technology needed to record for self evaluation/reflection
  • begin to develop the aural skills necessary to play in tune
  • begin to develop the aural skills necessary to play in time
  • understand basic sub-division concepts needed to build strong foundations in rhythm reading
  • begin to build sight-reading skills that lead to growth and maturity in literacy skills
  • begin to recognize conducting gestures and how they are connected to the written music
  • develop the skills needed to become a contributing member of an ensemble
  • develop the skills needed to present public performances
  • understand the relationship between music, culture and other disciplines
  • begin to explore basic improvisation and composition

Band: Seventh Grade

Upon completing seventh grade, students will be able to:

  • understand and apply the process of developing a good basic sound/tone on an instrument including posture, breath support, breath control and instrument maintenance
  • understand and apply the role that breath posture and breath support play in endurance and health
  • understand and apply the elements of music, including pitch, rhythm, tempo, dynamics and articulation, texture and form
  • expand their knowledge of and apply the musical symbol system, including performing in a wider variety of key signatures
  • understand the relationship between the elements of music and will begin to become self-directed in making musical decisions
  • understand how the relationship among the elements of music creates musical meaning and will begin to make musical decisions based on this knowledge
  • listen to both ensemble and individual recordings for critical evaluation/reflection
  • begin to understand the technology needed to record for self-evaluation/reflection
  • continue to develop the aural skills necessary to play in tune
  • continue to develop the aural skills necessary to play in time
  • build on and apply more advanced sub-division concepts to foster growth in reading complicated rhythms and in complex time signatures
  • recognize conducting gestures and will adjust their playing based on those gestures
  • continue to develop sight-reading skills that lead to growth and maturity in literacy skills
  • continue to develop the skills needed to become a contributing member of an ensemble
  • continue to develop the skills needed to present public performances
  • understand the relationship between music, culture and other disciplines
  • continue to explore basic improvisation and composition

 

Band: Eighth Grade

Upon completing eighth grade, students will be able to:

  • understand and apply the process of developing a good basic sound/tone on an instrument including posture, breath support, breath control and instrument maintenance
  • understand and apply the role that breath posture and breath support play in endurance and health
  • understand and apply the elements of music, including pitch, rhythm, tempo, dynamics and articulation, texture and form
  • expand on their knowledge of and apply the musical symbol system, including performing in a wider variety of key signatures
  • understand the relationship between the elements of music, and begin to become self-directed in making musical decisions
  • use the elements of music to create musical meaning early in the rehearsal process, thus learning music more efficiently
  • critically listen to recordings of themselves for self evaluation/reflection
  • understand and use the technology needed to record for self evaluation/reflection
  • continue to develop the aural skills necessary to play in tune
  • continue to develop the aural skills necessary to play in time
  • build on and apply advanced sub-division concepts to foster growth in reading complicated rhythms and complex time signatures
  • recognize conducting gestures and will adjust their playing based on those gestures
  • conduct basis beat patterns
  • continue to develop sight-reading skills that lead to growth and maturity in literacy skills
  • continue to develop the skills needed to become a contributing member of an ensemble
  • continue to develop the skills needed to present public performances
  • understand the relationship between music, culture and other disciplines
  • continue to explore basic improvisation and composition

 

Chorus

Students who are enthusiastic about singing and would like to sing in an ensemble are invited to be members of SMS Chorus. The focus of the vocal music program is to help students to improve and enhance their own skills, and to be active contributors to the performance ensemble. Ensemble skills such as focusing on and following the conductor are fundamental to understanding the musical elements and expressive qualities within the music. The curriculum, guided by New York State Learning Standards for Music, fosters skills in sight-reading, ear training, and the ability to read and understand the written musical page. Emphasis is placed on vocal technique and breath control and expressive musicianship with technical accuracy.

 

In addition, vocalists are encouraged to use higher order thinking skills as they make musical connections and critique their interpretation and performance of the varied repertoire. Repertoire is performed in two, three or four parts and is drawn from various genres such as American and World music, folk songs, choral classics, and popular music, including Broadway show tunes. During rehearsals, which occur every other day for the entire year, students develop proper tone production in both their head and chest voices. 

 

Chorus: Sixth Grade

Upon completing sixth grade in chorus, students will be able to:

  • sing a wide variety of music, with appropriate posture, greater use of head voice in addition to chest voice, good breath control, and properly enunciated vowels and consonants
  • sing expressively and with technical accuracy a vocal repertoire with a level of difficulty of 2, on a scale of 1 to 6, from memory
  • sing with appropriate sensitivity and expression music from diverse genres, styles and cultures, through proper articulation and tempo 
  • focus on and follow a conductor’s gestures for singing with expression, maintaining required tempi, dynamic contrasts, and musical nuances unique to each piece.
  • perform in unison and in two or three parts, with possible descant or countermelody
  • read a written score (octavo) and recognize and interpret basic notation symbols
  • sight-read in treble clef in the keys of C and F in duple or triple meters, with good rhythmic accuracy, using neutral syllables or solfege syllables (do, re, mi, fa, etc.)
  • develop their aesthetic response to music by connecting lyrics with composer’s choices
  • listen to or watch and critique their rehearsal and concert performances, using appropriate music vocabulary

Chorus: Seventh Grade

Upon completing seventh grade in chorus, students will be able to:

  • continue to sing a wide variety of music, with appropriate posture, tone quality, good breath control, and proper vowels and consonants, while broadening their vocal ranges
  • sing more expressively, and with more accurate intonation, a vocal repertoire with a level of difficulty of 2 to 3, on a scale of 1 to 6, from memory
  • sing music from diverse genres, styles, and cultures, with increased sensitivity and greater expression for the piece being sung, through appropriate articulation and tempo
  • focus on and follow a conductor’s gestures for singing with expression, including an opportunity to practice conducting patterns and to conduct vocal warm-ups of their class
  • perform more complex music written in three parts (4 parts optionally) with an understanding of the challenges for the boys changing voice
  • read a more complex written score with treble and bass clefs and interpret additional notation and articulation symbols
  • sight-read in treble and bass clefs in the keys of C, F, and G, in compound and mixed meters and with good rhythmic accuracy, using neutral syllables or solfege syllables (do, re, mi, fa, etc.)
  • further develop their aesthetic response to music by connecting lyrics with a composer’s choices
  • listen to or watch and critique their rehearsal and concert performances, using more precise music vocabulary and developing problem-solving skills

Chorus: Eighth Grade

Upon completing eighth grade in chorus, students will be able to:

  • continue to sing a wide repertoire of music, with proper habits of posture, tone quality, good breath control, proper diction, with relaxed throat and loose jaw
  • sing even more expressively and with increased technical accuracy a vocal repertoire with a level of difficulty of 2 to 4, on a scale of 1 to 6, from memory
  • augment their singing from diverse genres, styles, and cultures, with increased sensitivity and more expression for the piece being sung, by making greater connections and distinctions between various cultures
  • increase their focus on following a conductor’s gestures for singing with greater expression, while maintaining their vocal part and balance within the ensemble
  • perform music written in 3, 4, or 5 parts, singing with accompaniment or a cappella, with further understanding of the challenges for the boys’ changing voice
  • sing in at least three languages, such as Latin, French, Spanish, or an African or Asian language
  • broaden score reading skills and recognize and interpret more complex notation symbols
  • sight-read in treble and bass clefs in several major keys, in various meters, and with increased rhythmic accuracy, using neutral syllables or solfege syllables (do, re, mi, fa, etc.)
  • expand their aesthetic response to music by connecting lyrics with a composer’s choices and engaging in composition themselves, or through a cooperative composing activity
  • listen to or watch and critique their rehearsal and concert performances, using greater understanding of music terminology

String Orchestra

The Middle School string program centers on acquisition of ensemble skills, and progressive development of instrumental techniques common to all string instruments. The repertoire over three years spans New York State School Music Association level 2 music, to pieces as challenging as NYSSMA level 5, and is selected from diverse cultures, periods, and styles as appropriate for strings. In the eighth grade ensemble, at least one significant, original, unarranged piece is rehearsed and performed each year. Critical listening, and a creative approach to rehearsing in which students are encouraged to evaluate their own and the group’s performance, are highlights of our daily work. 

 

Each grade level ensemble is divided into two sections, each of which meets on alternate days within the school day. Additionally, there is one before-the-school day rehearsal for each grade every week. Attendance at these morning rehearsals is required. The school maintains a supply of string instruments (3/4 and full size) so that students need not bring their own to school. The orchestras perform two concerts each year, one in the winter and one in the spring. Attendance at these concerts is a requirement of the course.

 

String Orchestra: Sixth Grade

Upon completing sixth grade string orchestra, students will:

  • perform music that meets NYSSMA criteria for levels 2, and 3 
  • perform music in a variety of styles including baroque, classical, ethnic, folk, and “popular” music that is appropriate to their grade level of difficulty 
  • learn a variety of bowings including spiccato, detache, and slurring, and simple shifts to 3rd and 4th positions

 

String Orchestra: Seventh Grade

Upon completing seventh grade string orchestra, students will:

  • perform repertoire that meets NYSSMA criteria for levels 2, 3, and 4
  • expand their knowledge of baroque and classical music with more challenging selections
  • accomplish techniques such as shifting to 4th and 5th positions, hooked bowings, and martele
  • continue to explore music of other cultures and styles

String Orchestra: Eighth Grade

Upon completing eighth grade string orchestra, students will:

  • perform repertoire that meets NYSSMA criteria for levels 3, 4 and 5
  • experience performing at least one piece of music presented in its original, unabridged and unarranged form from the standard string repertoire 
  • continue to explore music from other world cultures as appropriate to the ensemble, and the techniques necessary to perform it  
  • develop techniques that may include shifting through all the positions, some thumb position for cellists, and a wide variety of bowings 

 

In addition to these courses, extra-curricular ensembles and experiences may include: Jazz Band, Vocal Ensemble, Wind Ensemble, NYSSMA, and All-County Chorus/Band/Orchestra. These opportunities are offered beyond the school day.

 

 

Exploring Music (Classroom Music)

The Exploring Music course is designed to develop an appreciation of all types of music through listening, analyzing, evaluating, and composing skills. The curriculum in grades six through eight encourages students to develop an understanding of music elements, including rhythm, melody, harmony, form, and tone color, while fully engaging students in hands-on activities. Students then showcase their knowledge and skills learned through original, creative projects. Music technology in our piano lab is part of the course.

 

In sixth grade students begin the year with a review of basic notation; that knowledge is expanded throughout the year. Study units include instruments of the orchestra, the properties of sound, and instruments of various cultures. Projects may include designing and creating original instruments, learning to play recorder, composing and playing in small ensembles, and listening to and comparing different genres of music.

 

In seventh grade, students develop further understanding of the elements of music through listening, playing, improvising, and composing. The sequence of study ranges from music of world cultures to contemporary music. Units may include work in the music technology lab, World Music drumming, basic acoustic guitar playing and composition, and introduction to piano. Music and its role in world cultures and human rights is explored and used as a vehicle for personal expression.

 

In eighth grade, music literacy skills and American music are highlighted. Guitar or piano study may be extended, with subsequent study of the history and development of rock ‘n’ roll and/or blues and jazz. Students engage in learning activities online with WebQuests or research of bands or musicians, and their impact on these genres. Students share their knowledge by performing for each other or recording a song on guitar played by that band or soloist. Other units may include researching the music of that student’s own heritage by conducting interviews of family members, in conjunction with library and Internet research. A focus of such study is to enable students to make connections with how society is reflected in the music of the culture and times.

 

By the culmination of the three-year Exploring Music sequence, music literacy, classroom performance, and skill development coexist seamlessly. Implementation is achieved through:

  • acoustic/electric guitar
  • percussion/World Drumming
  • recorders
  • mallet/Orff barred instruments
  • basic piano.  

Upon completing eighth grade, students will:

  • use music terminology to describe their knowledge of the elements of music
  • read, notate, and perform written music
  • compare and contrast various styles and genres of music for their expressive qualities
  • describe specific forms in music, such as ostinato, binary, rondo, and concerto forms
  • compare and contrast music in American culture with diverse World cultures
  • use music technology to enhance their own compositions