Music is an integral part of the SMS experience. Every child participates in music class every week, and kindergarten through sixth year students have two different music experiences each week. Music classes at SMS are active and fun. Experiences include group and solo singing, dancing, instrument playing, and music literacy. The primary goals of the music program at SMS are for students to find joy in learning about and making music, and having music become an important part of their lives.
Children’s House classes have music once a week for a half hour. Listening to music, reacting to music using scarves and streamers, playing music with rhythm instruments, and exploring the sounds our voices can make are all part of the program. Basic musical concepts such as high and low, soft and loud, and fast and slow are introduced and explored.
In addition to the half-hour of music class, each kindergarten student has a half hour music theory class each week. During this time, basic music skills are introduced and developed: clapping a steady beat while listening to music, recognizing the difference between the beat and the rhythm in a song, and learning to read simple rhythms are all practiced. Learning to match pitches with our voices and becoming comfortable singing individually and in a group are also skills explored.
Lower Elementary classes meet for an hour each week. Music subject matter rotates through a three-year cycle.
Year 1: It’s Instrumental!
During the fall semester, students learn how instruments sound and how they are grouped together in ensembles. The second half of the year is spent learning to play Orff instruments (a xylophone-type instrument with removable bars) and using them to accompany songs, dances, and stories.
Year 2: Tell Me a Story
This year explores the many different ways that music can tell a story: through songs, ballet, opera, instrumental pieces, and musical theatre. In past years, the students have listened to and studied The Nutcracker (ballet), Hansel and Gretel (opera) and Peer Gynt (an orchestral representation of a story).
Year 3: The Science of Sound
Our final year of the three-year cycle explores vibration, sound waves, and ways that music is created. At the end of the year the students use what they have learned about sound and sound production to create a musical instrument.
Lower Elementary Music Theory Classes
Each grade in Lower Elementary meets for a half hour each week for lessons in music theory. They match pitches and read rhythms as begun in kindergarten. We then progress to music reading and writing in preparation for recorder and ukulele lessons in Upper Elementary.
Fourth year students come to music each week for a forty-five-minute group lesson in recorder. During this time, music reading skills learned in Lower Elementary theory classes are put into practice to play songs. Learning to play as an ensemble, and learning to experiment and improvise are also practiced. The recorder class plays the entrance song at the graduation ceremony at the end of the year.
Fifth year students have forty-five minutes of ukulele instruction each week. Tuning, strumming, plucking, and reading music written for the ukulele are included. After learning a number of folk songs, the fifth year students have a sing-a-long with the kindergarten students. They also play at graduation at the end of the year.
Sixth year students meet an hour each week for drama class. Basic theater terminology is learned, along with acting skills needed for the spring production. Theatre games, monologues, and mini plays are a fun part of the fall. In the spring, drama class becomes a time for the sixth year students to practice their parts for the spring musical.
All of the Upper Elementary students meet for chorus once a week for an hour. In the fall, they learn music to present to local nursing homes. In the spring, this time is used to practice for the spring musical theater production.
The Play’s the Thing!
Each spring, the entire Upper Elementary participates in the annual musical theater production. The sixth year students take on the leading roles, and the fourth and fifth years act in supporting roles and the chorus. Students participate in all aspects of the production – including staging ideas, prop and scenery production, and costuming-making this a true group effort where everyone’s contribution is important and appreciated. Performing for the Lower Elementary students and families is a highlight of each year, and something that even our youngest students look forward to doing when they are Upper Elementary students.