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.
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:
Band: Seventh Grade
Upon completing seventh grade, students will be able to:
Band: Eighth Grade
Upon completing eighth grade, students will be able to:
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:
Chorus: Seventh Grade
Upon completing seventh grade in chorus, students will be able to:
Chorus: Eighth Grade
Upon completing eighth grade in chorus, students will be able to:
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:
String Orchestra: Seventh Grade
Upon completing seventh grade string orchestra, students will:
String Orchestra: Eighth Grade
Upon completing eighth grade string orchestra, students will:
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 the elements of music 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 (using Arduino-type programming), learning to play ukulele, 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 researching the music of a student’s own heritage by conducting interviews of family members in conjunction with library and Internet research, work in the music technology lab, World Music drumming, and basic acoustic guitar playing and composition. Music and its role in world cultures and its connection to literature are 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 study of the history and development of American music, Rock ‘n’Roll, and/or Blues and Jazz. Students engage in learning activities online including research of bands or musicians, and their impact on these genres. 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. Students share their knowledge in a variety of ways including podcasts, Keynote-style presentations, performing live and recorded compositions for one another, and presenting about a composer, musician, or band(s) life and contribution to music history.
By the culmination of the three-year Exploring Music sequence, music literacy, classroom performance, and skill development coexist seamlessly. Implementation is achieved through:
Upon completing eighth grade, students will: