Music is an integral part of the Waldorf curriculum and life of the school, from pre-school through high school. It develops the heart and feeling realm and can be cross-referenced within almost every lesson and activity in the school day. Students experience song and rhythmic activities, as well as the plating of pentatonic flutes, wooden diatonic flutes, lyres, string instruments, woodwind instruments, soprano, alto, tenor and bass recorders, and Orff wooden and metal xylophones, throughout their years at SWSF. In the lower school, all students participate in learning an orchestral instrument beginning in grade three. All students in grades fourth through twelfth grade also have two periods of classroom music each week. Students perform in concerts during the school year. High school students have two music electives per week, choosing from orchestra, choir, American music and recorder ensemble.
Our rationale and mission is that every child should experience playing a musical instrument, because it helps to harmoniously form the child for the rest of his/her emotional, mental and spiritual experience as a student and adult human being.
In first grade, the children sing daily, in unison, with their class teacher, drawing from simple pentatonic melodies. Songs come from the changing seasons, festival life, and stories told by the class teacher. Each child has a pentatonic flute and learns all music through imitating the class teacher.
Second grade music is a continuation of all offered in grade one, with the addition of once-a-week music class with the music teacher. Pentatonic songs, and call/response themes help further develop listening skills. Songs are still presented in unison and are learned through imitation. Our school has 15 pentatonic lyres, and the children work with these for a season. This is the beginning experience of a non-bowed string instrument for our students. Children learn posture, strumming technique, and listening skills.
Third grade children move to the diatonic flute and work mainly in the C-major scale. Around the middle of the school year, the minor scale is introduced in conjunction with the rich Hebrew story-telling curriculum. Music theory is approached with much imagination, as the children make their own music books throughout the year, learning about basic notes and beats, rhythms, the music staff treble clef, and the “rainbow scale”. The round is introduced, and thus the children’s first experience of two-part singing. All children have both a music class and a violin class each week. The lyre is once again brought for a black in third grade with more attention paid to learning melodies. Third graders study violin. Students learn violin with half of the class at a time. Our school has 15 beginning violins that the children use. There is no homework this year. Students learn basic bowing techniques as well as violin appreciation; whole, half, quarter and eighth note tones, introduction to fingering; and simple duet-playing with the teacher. Enjoyment of music performed with the teacher is part of each lesson, with components of group singing and playing, which include appreciation and understanding of tone, pulse, and pitch. Towards the end of the year, we introduce music notation from the board to the manuscript book.
In Fourth Grade, the children learn the rudiments of music theory with the overarching theme of “rhythm”. During the classroom music period, children deepen their relationship to the time signature, in conjunction with their math fractions block. Aspects of music writing fundamentals are covered. Children begin listening, writing what they hear, and reading and playing what they wrote. The children begin true two-part singing this year. All children begin to deepen their music reading skills on the treble clef with their soprano recorders throughout the year. At the end of the year in third grade, the class teacher and violin teacher meet to evaluate and make recommendations as to which string instrument (violin or cello) each child entering the fourth grade is best suited to play. The students are split into two groups: cello with one teacher and violin with the other teacher. There are two periods per week of instrumental music in the fourth grade. Note reading, bowing technique, simple song, intonation, pulse and tone are taught this year.
The overarching theme of fifth grade music is “melody”. Children learn harmonic and melodic minor scales, key signatures, scale patterns, forms of songs, expression of tempo, and dynamics. There is one period per week of classroom music. Children sing in two and three parts in a choral setting. All children continue reading and playing music with their soprano recorders. The school has a set of alto recorders which are given out to each student for half of the year. This is a bigger, deeper sounding instrument which has a completely different fingering than the soprano recorder. This challenge helps build the student’s reading skills and the alto recorder offers many opportunities for rich harmonies with recorder music written and picked out to enrich the Waldorf curriculum. The fifth grade continues with strings study, and adds winds instruments. Children who have experienced success with last year’s string instrument are encouraged to continue with their instrument. Children who appear to be more suited to wind instruments are offered the option of a separate woodwind class which includes flute, clarinet, and trombone, with an occasional french horn or oboe. The instrumental classes meet for two periods per week. All students from fifth grade through eighth grade are expected to take private lessons on their orchestral instrument.
In sixth grade we work in three part harmony in our classroom music period. We have soprano, alto and tenor recorders, and we sing with soprano, alto and beginning tenor voices. The curriculum has an overarching theme of medieval music and the students learn about the beginnings of music writing from those times. The sixth grade meets two times a week as an entire class for their first true orchestral experience with mixed strings and winds. Instead of playing with instruments that are mostly alike, now the students learn how to play in a group setting, learning skills that are needed to make a large sound, and how to work in a group where each student has to sacrifice the lead melody and bring out the richness of the harmonies. This is a wonderful opportunity for the class to grow together socially as well as musically.
7th & 8th Grade
Seventh and eighth grade wind ensemble students meet two times per week in a combined seventh and eighth grade wind ensemble which includes silver flute, trumpet, trombone, clarinet, and at times french horn, and percussion. Wind Ensemble music as well as classical band music is played, and the group further develops techniques including deepening their range and getting a good, strong tone from their wind instruments, as well as blending and balancing. Lastly, we have a seventh and eighth string and recorder ensemble. Two classes meet at the same time with two different teachers twice a week. One group is the whole seventh grade except the winds, and the other group is the whole eighth grade except for the winds. The class further studies string ensemble music with all other similar c-instruments including soprano, alto, tenor and bass recorder. The class further develops their technique and work as a class orchestra developing skills related to playing in an ensemble. These include balance, blend, supporting parts, main melodies, dynamics, and working together as a group.
High School music at Summerfield takes on a slightly different character beginning in the 9th grade in that, although students are encouraged to continue their lower school instruments, they are not required to do so. In addition to the high school orchestra we offer a high level recorder ensemble, an American Music class, International Music and an advanced choir. Our hope is that music in the high school has a formal life as well as a spontaneous life, as students frequently break out their instruments during morning break and lunch and enjoy playing together. We want to keep inspiring the students to play, to attain proficiency, and to continue to expand their taste in music as they mature as we to support, challenge and encourage our talented and music-career-bound students, as well as provide an environment that helps every student foster a life-long love for the art of singing or playing an instrument.
Orchestra – The High School Orchestra is composed of a mixed and eclectic variety of traditional instruments. The group performs a mix of classical, contemporary, and jazz works.
Choir – Students are introduced to a wide range of vocal music literature, including classical, folk, opera, spirituals, jazz, and contemporary works. Original languages have included Latin, Italian, Spanish, German, French, Russian, Bulgarian and Zulu, among others.
American Folk Music – In this class, students explore the American folk music tradition and follow its progression through the 19th and 20th centuries. We focus on the music of various historical time periods, such as: the Antebellum South, Civil War, Westward Expansion, Industrialization of modern America, the Progressive Era in which blues and jazz were birthed, Depression Era and the ’60s Folk revival. Some of the musical personalities whose music we will learn are: Stephen Foster, Robert Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Louis Jordan, Billie Holiday, Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. All instruments, voices and levels are accepted.
Recorder Ensemble – This class provides an opportunity to create beautiful music on a sensitive instrument. Students learn to play in a focused, analytical and, at the same time, expressive manner. The literature presented ranges from the Middle Ages to Baroque and Modern composers (like Arvo Part, Blaker or Maute). Students work on specific recorder techniques, such as how to create dynamics, articulation and improvisation.