SMS MUSIC PROGRAM INFORMATION
Music study at Scarsdale Middle School is either in a performance ensemble (band, chorus, orchestra) or in a non-performance class (Exploring Music). Music courses are sequential and students are expected to remain in their chosen music area for three years. Students must choose only one course of study. The program and schedule do not allow for a student to be in more than one course. We do expect that fifth grade students who are currently playing in Band or Orchestra will continue in those instrumental ensembles in sixth grade. Students selecting Band or Orchestra should check with their current instrumental teacher for guidance before registering. Students selecting Chorus or Exploring Music should check with their vocal music teacher. Changes at the Middle School may only be made during the first few weeks of school, and must include a conversation or written correspondence between the parent and music teacher. With the approval of the house counselor, the administration, and the music department chair, a change may then be enacted.This program overview is organized according to:1. Commonalities Among All Music Courses
2. Similarities Among Performance Ensembles
3. Differences Between Performance Ensembles and Exploring Music
4. Band - Chorus - Orchestra - Exploring Music
5. Extra-Curricular Music Offerings
_________________________________________________________________1. Commonalities Among All Music Courses
All music classes meet every other day for the entire year; each music class contains students from two of the four houses at SMS.
Students receive quarterly letter grades in music and in all subjects at SMS.
Music faculty explain their own grading rubrics at Sixth Grade Open House; detailed course information appears online under each music faculty member’s SMS Teacher Pages.
There are assessments in all music courses that may be written, skill-based, or project-oriented. Homework assignments or practice journals may be required by music department faculty; related materials are often posted on Teacher Pages.
Curriculum goals align with the Scarsdale Education for Tomorrow, in which critical and creative thinking skills and reflective practice are fostered during every class and allow for personal growth and development within the educational setting.
Guidelines for learning are drawn from the National Standards for Music and the NYS Standards for Music.
_________________________________________________________________2. Similarities Among Performance Ensembles
* Performance groups require students to participate in evening concerts; attendance is taken and counted in the quarterly grade as part of the course requirement. Please be aware that attendance at concerts is mandatory unless personal illness or a family emergency makes it impossible. The music department and administration regard concert participation as the pinnacle of the ensemble experience. Absence from a concert will result in the lowering of that quarter’s grade. This policy is intended to reflect our regard for the importance of the commitment students make to contribute what they have learned to the success of the ensemble. Each student’s effort is important and significant, and each student’s musical spirit matters to the authenticity and integrity of the group’s performance.
Enrollment in band and orchestra is open to students already playing and participating in the elementary ensemble. It is highly recommended that you consult with your elementary instrumental director (chorus with their elementary choral directors).
Early morning rehearsals for band and orchestra occur once per week for much of the year, beginning at 7:30 a.m. and are mandatory.
There are four mandatory early-morning rehearsals throughout the year for grades 6-7-8 choruses.
Evening concerts, one in winter and one in spring, serve as culminating experiences for all performing ensembles (band, chorus, orchestra); mandatory attendance is reflected in quarterly grades*
Instrumental and choral ensembles are divided into smaller sections for class rehearsals, each meeting on alternate days within the school day schedule
Developing musicianship skills and ensemble skills such as focusing on and following the conductor are fundamental
Handbooks for ensembles, including concert dates and course requirements, are available during the first weeks of class and online on teachers’ SchoolWires pages; concert dates are also on the Scarsdale Community printed calendar
No pullout music lessons for instrumental study (differing from elementary school)
No small group lessons at this level to accommodate a beginner instrumental student
No instrumental private lessons are offered in school
In consultation with the band or orchestra director, students may potentially change instruments within their section grouping, i.e., trumpet to baritone horn, clarinet to bass clarinet, violin to viola, viola to cello. Students are encouraged to take private lessons when switching to a new instrument in that section grouping
_________________________________________________________________3. Differences Between Performance Ensembles and Exploring Music
No concert requirement in Exploring Music
Exploring Music is designed for the student who (1) enjoys hands-on activities that are meaningful, varied, and challenging, (2) wishes to develop his/her own musical potential through a series of project-oriented music experiences
Music software is used to enhance creativity in the music technology lab in Exploring Music
Most work is done during class time. However, homework may be necessary for special projects or when a student is unable to complete work during class time.
_________________________________________________________________4. Band, Chorus, Orchestra, Exploring Music
Please click this OVERVIEW link for information about our music courses.
_________________________________________________________________5. Extra-Curricular Music Offerings – (before/after the school day)
Extra-curricular activities may be chosen in September, but sixth grade music registration must be completed now for an in-school performance ensemble or Exploring Music.
All-District Orchestra (rehearses at the High School) - grades 4-6
All-District Jazz Band (rehearses at SMS) - grades 4-6
SMS Jazz Band - grades 7-8 (rehearses at SMS)
All-District Chorus - grade 6 singers only in Chorus - by audition and currently (rehearses at Fox Meadow)
Chamber Winds - grades 6-8 (woodwind and brass players) (rehearses at SMS)
Vocal Music Club - grades 6-8 (rehearses at SMS)
Sinfonietta Strings - grades 7 and 8 (rehearses at SMS)
The SMS Musical - grade 8 (rehearses at SMS)
Participation in the Westchester County School Music Association (WCSMA) festivals is dependent upon enrollment in our performing ensembles; the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) has its own rules for participation.
The Student Organization (S.O.) holds auditions for the school Talent Show, usually in November.
If you have further questions about the SMS Music Program, please refer to the FAQs below.
You may also contact Dr. Jessica Slotwinski, Middle School Music Department Chair, at 721-2607 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Music Registration: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Do I have to take music at Scarsdale Middle School? - Everyone must be registered for a music class. The four choices are: Band, Chorus, Exploring Music, or Orchestra.
What is the difference between elementary and middle school general music? - General Music is called Exploring Music at the Middle School and meets every other day. Exploring Music engages learners with hands-on activities that are varied. Exploring Music is for the student who enjoys meaningful challenges and wishes to develop his/her own musical potential through a series of project oriented musical experiences. Music technology is used to enhance creativity.
What is the difference between elementary and middle school choral groups? The study of vocal skills involves very diverse activities, including sight-singing and reading music, in addition to singing. The expectations for participation and developing musicianship are elevated in the middle school choral classroom. Higher order thinking skills are fostered at every rehearsal. Chorus is for the student who is serious about becoming more proficient as a singer and performer.
Do I have to have a great voice to join chorus? A developed solo voice is not essential; however, a strong willingness to improve singing skills along with a sincere desire to work to the best of your ability on a choral team is vital.
Can I start a new instrument at the Middle School? - Unfortunately, no, a student must already be playing an instrument to enroll in an instrumental group. There are no small group lessons at this level to accommodate a beginner student; we cannot offer private lessons. Please contact the band/orchestra teacher if you have any questions.
Can I switch instruments in Middle School? - In consultation with the band or orchestra director, students may change instruments within their section grouping, i.e., trumpet to baritone horn, clarinet to bass clarinet, violin to viola, viola to cello. Students are encouraged to take private lessons when switching to a new instrument in that section grouping.
Can I play piano in the orchestra? - At SMS, we have a string orchestra; piano is not part of the instrumentation. However, you can opt to play the piano in jazz band. Information is given out in September. All-District Jazz Band meets after school and is a club, not a during- the-school-day class.
Can I play electric or acoustic guitar in the band? - Guitar is not part of the usual band instrumentation. However, you can opt to play the guitar in jazz band. Information is given out in September. All-District Jazz Band meets after school and is a club, not a during- the-school-day class.
I want to continue playing my instrument, but I like to sing too. What should I do? - You may join The Vocal MusicClub, which is an extra-curricular activity. Information will be given out in the fall.
Do I get a grade in music? - Yes, quarterly letter grades are given in all subjects at the Middle School.
How am I graded in Exploring Music or the performing ensembles? - Individual teachers in Exploring Music and the performing ensembles will explain their own grading rubrics at the beginning of the semester. Term grades are given on a quarterly basis. Performance groups require students to participate in evening concerts; attendance is taken and counted in the quarterly grade as part of the course requirement. Please be aware that attendance at concerts is mandatory unless personal illness or a family emergency makes it impossible. The music department and administration regard concert participation as the pinnacle of the ensemble experience. Absence from a concert will result in the lowering of that quarterly grade by one full letter grade. It is in no way intended to reflect negatively on the importance of the various possible conflicts that may arise. In fact, such a judgment would be entirely inappropriate. Rather, it is intended to reflect our regard for the importance of the commitment students make to contribute what they have learned to the success of the ensemble. Each student's effort is important and significant, and each student's musical spirit matters to the authenticity and integrity of the group's performance.
Will I get homework and tests in the performing groups and Exploring Music? - There are assessments in all the music courses that may be written, skill-based, or project oriented.
Do I have to stay in the music class I choose for the entire year? May I switch groups during the year or after the year is over? - In general, we expect students to remain in their chosen music area for their three years at the Middle School. If changes need to be made in placement, they must be made in writing during the first few weeks of school.
Can I participate in NYSSMA or WCSMA if I am not in a performing group? -You must be enrolled in the Middle School performing group in order to participate in the Westchester County School Music Association festivals. The New York State School Music Association has its own rules for participation.