The Arts and Education

Whether our civilization can remain dynamic, nurturing and successful will ultimately depend on how well and how fully we develop the capacities of our children not only to earn a living in a world of stunning complexity, but to live a life rich in meaning. (Washington State Commission of Student Learning – Arts, April 15, 1995)

Teacher: Becca Gray

As a music teacher it is my goal to help students gain a deeper understanding of the importance of music in their lives today and in the future.

To accomplish this one must:

READ music with comprehension and discuss the elements that

KNOW the core fundamentals as to its formulation

THINK analytically about how the many types of music affect ones life and creatively about how it can be incorporated in new ways

UNDERSTAND how music reflects the culture and history of the times, and how music may have an effect on its culture

This is a life-long process for many of us at St. Nicholas School. I hope to engage students in the process of learning about music – a process that will continue on throughout their lives. All grades will work to develop a music vocabulary to promote music literacy.  This includes reading and writing music, singing both secular as well as liturgical music, and listening.


Children love using their voices, and we will explore all the possible ways of expressing in song, chant, and speech. Different sounds and tone colors will be demonstrated by listening to recordings of different instruments and different voice types. As the children begin singing, we will examine the rote songs: Matching melody, identifying repeated patterns, describing the movement of the melody rhythmically and melodically. Movement will be used to establish the idea of a steady, regular beat. We will use props such as scarves to move with the music, reflecting both the tempo and the rhythmic activity present in the music. As much as possible, we will talk about the music in descriptive terms telling how the music moves and how the music makes us feel. There are no incorrect answers to how one is affected by music. All responses are valid.

Seasonal songs and games will be include as often as possible. All liturgical music will be reviewed in all classes to enhance the students’ participation in the music liturgy.

Kindergarten and Grade 1

Listening to a wide variety of songs will reinforce melody recognition, mood, tone color (timbre) and both major and minor modes. Movement will frequently help to establish the feeling of a steady beat, demonstrate rhythms and tempo changes. Recognition of tone color as is demonstrated in hearing different instruments will begin. “Peter and the Wolf” by Prokofiev will be a featured work that helps identify the instruments and their characteristic sounds. Related activities and recordings will be used to reinforce this learning. Emotional responses to the music will be discussed throughout the year. Each individual response is valid and will be recognized. Seasonal songs and games will be include as often as possible. As we focus on different composers during the year, all grades will participate. All liturgical music will be reviewed in all classes to enhance the students’ participation in the music liturgy.

Grade 2 and Grade 3

Movement will continue to be an integral part of out weekly activities. Recognizing different rhythms and melodies will be stressed, looking for both repetitions and variations in each. “The Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra” will help identify the various instruments. These instruments will be grouped according to families and their distinctive qualities will be discussed. In the classroom, I will use instruments as much as possible to add color and variety to our learning and singing of songs. Often instruments can be used for sustaining a constant tempo (beat) or adding a rhythmic accompaniment. “Doe, a deer” (Sound of Music) will serve as an introduction to the major scale. As the year progresses and students become more familiar with reading and following the words for our songs, we will begin to discuss how music can tell both pitch and duration for the sound. This This will include identifying the staff, recognizing notes, and understanding how measures help in organizing this new language of music. As new music in introduced, the liturgical as well as secular, the emotional responses will be recognized and acknowledged.

Grade 4

All elements of music will be introduced and elaborated on (this will be true for grades 4-8): Rhythm, Melody, Tone Color/Timbre, Form, Harmony The terms listed above will be the new vocabulary used to describe, analyze, and respond to the music heard in class and the songs learned. Recorders will be introduced to aid in developing the self-discipline necessary to master reading notes and rhythm. Students will learn pitch and duration on the recorder which is a good preparation for band. It is difficult to make a decision about an instrument for band when one has little or no experience making music other than singing. It is a way to experience music-making outside their own bodies – in a new and fun way. As in all grades, seasonal music will be included along with the liturgical music necessary for full participation in the music liturgy. In addition to the recorders, Grade 4 will continue to sing rounds which will later lead to part-singing.

Grade 5 and Grade 6

The elements of music (as listed above) will be reviewed. Assessments will be given throughout the year to document the understanding of musical notation and musical periods. Classes will recognize and discuss the broad characteristics of the different periods of music. Composers discussed will include Bach, Handel, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Copland, Bernstein, etc. (as time permits). The fundamentals of singing will be explored. Sight-singing will be introduced which will challenge the students and at the same time help build musical independence. As in all grades seasonal music will be included as well as the liturgical music necessary for full participation in the music liturgy.

Grade 7 and 8

Depending on the students’ presenting abilities, similar material is presented as in Grade 6 but at a more complex level. When the basic elements of music have been mastered (melody, rhythm, form, timbre, and harmony), further emphasis will be placed on the student’s presentation of music. The different periods of music will be examined, not only for developments in the field of music, but also with an eye toward how music is integrated with the art and literature of the same period. Students will be expected to tie major historical events into their time line for music. Exploration is the key to this focus – inquiring how music reflects the history of the times and how it may have an effect on its culture. (As time permits, we may explore one opera of the standard repertoire). Students will continue to work on sight-singing, will do some notation (writing of music), as well as listening critically. As adolescents, music plays a huge role in their lives. With the development of a new music vocabulary, a new focus will be made to analyze and react to this music. As a bonus, some examples of contemporary music will be listened to and analyzed in class. As always, both secular and liturgical music will be sung in the classroom. Especially with the upper grades, my emphasis will be on ingraining the fundamentals of good singing. My hope is to have the older students become more involved in the music ministry of the mass, and in doing so serve as role models for the younger students.