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Welcome to the Music Program!
Orpheus’ lute was strung with poets’ sinews,
Whose golden touch could soften steel and stones,
Make tigers tame and huge leviathans
Forsake unsounded deeps to dance on sands.
This webpage contains a variety of information about music at Urban Prairie. It was designed as an informational resource for parents. Topics on this page include:
Music Curriculum Overview
Please note that this page is not linked to any areas on the public urbanprairie.org website; therefore please bookmark it to see further updates as the year progresses.
The first year of music focuses on the beautifully direct relationship the young child has with tones and singing. Music is a natural, profound experience for many first graders. They experience many of the songs through unconscious imitation and subtle awareness of the newly awakened world of music. Music is not so much “taught” as it is shared and enjoyed by all; participation is expected on some level but the priority is to give the children the experience of beautiful sound and color in a safe, warm, and welcoming environment. Topics throughout the year include breathing, inward and outward movement, the learning of songs through imitation, sound games, an introduction to instruments via the flute, the creation of music through group improvisation and conducting, and ear training.
Second grade music is characterized by a gradual awakening of the senses as the musical concepts of contrast and narrative are explored more fully. In parallel to the main lesson studies of the saints, fables, and nature, second grade music emphasizes ballads, longer narrative songs, music with multiple sections and forms, and an introduction to tonality. While pentatonic music is still the dominant mood of the year, major and minor will be gradually introduced through physical movements and visual associations that pave the way for the dominant-function harmony (“do-re-mi-fa-so…”) that encompasses so much of Western tonality. The subtle association between sight, step, and singing paves the way for the act of reading music in Third Grade.
In music class, the round (think “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” with three people starting at different times, for example) is introduced as an exciting first step into the world of true harmony – two or more melodies (or “lines”) sung simultaneously to form chords and phrases. As the year develops, the rounds become more and more complex, eventually softening the gap between a true round and actual two-part harmony. The concepts of beat, key signature, scales, intervals, and accidentals are introduced. The diatonic flute is an exciting new instrument for the class to learn; it is taught between the music teacher and the main lesson teacher. The scalar capabilities of the diatonic flute match well with the newly tonicized areas of the third grade music curriculum.
Third grade also features the first year of orchestra class. It begins with a class of individuals learning to play and sing as a single unit. For this reason, all students are required to play the violin in third grade. The year begins with pure, joyful experimentation of sounds and musical textures. Plucking, snapping, clapping and sound games all serve to spark creativity and interest in their new, deceptively complex instruments. The students to are encouraged to create “beautiful sounds only”. This early foundation in artistic will and musical perfection will guide their musical taste in the years to come. After learning to play on “open” strings (strings played without any fingers being placed on the violin), the use of the fingers combined with the use of the bow opens possibilities for simple songs and melodies. After one year of violin, each student is allowed to either continue with violin or switch to viola or cello starting in Fourth Grade. This decision is jointly made by the student, the parents, and the instructor based upon the child’s musical and physical needs and what they intuitively feel is best for them.
Fourth Grade music class contains a strong deepening of the more intellectual concepts learned in Third Grade. Sight-reading from the board is strongly emphasized, building on the skills of note identification, analysis of pitch relationships and intervals, key signature identification, beat vs. rhythm, and an introduction to proper singing technique. An exploration of rhythm is a critical aspect of Fourth Grade music as it directly relates to the study of fractions in main lesson. As the students learn to add and subtract fractions through writing and speaking with their class teacher, they will learn to hear these mathematical concepts aloud through composition and group rhythm exercises.
After one year of violin, the students select either violin, viola or cello to play as orchestra class transforms into a diverse string ensemble with multi-part music and increasingly long and complex pieces. An adjustment period is to be expected in the beginning as the budding violists and cellists adjust to their new instruments and the continuing violinists become more curious about what they are already familiar with. An emphasis on ensemble playing and responsibility to the group unifies the curriculum and the class as the autumn progresses. Learning to play one’s own part in perfect rhythm with the conductor and the other sections of the orchestra is the seminal challenge of fourth grade orchestra class. By mid-year, students are expected to fall into a dedicated home practice routine, encouraged by guidance and distinctly positive reinforcement from parents and the instructor alike. By the end of the year, students will have adjusted to the musical demands of playing as “individuals in a group” and will have experienced several exciting public concerts as a formal String Ensemble.
Fifth and Sixth Grade
The study of Ancient Greece provides rich curriculum material for music class to build off of and enhance. The study of the Greek modes of music (a collection of ancient, sacred scales) introduces a new mood to the harmonic texture of the always-expanding repertoire. By this point the class will have a strong, large library of familiar songs that they will know and love – a collection that gives them great confidence to perform for an audience and act as one. The study of physics is a convenient parallel to the importance of acoustics in performance technique. Students will learn to project their voices differently based on various style components of the given repertoire including composer, time period, vowel shaping, dynamics, and texture. Harmony develops into 3-and-4-parts in chorus, testing the limits of their ever-strengthening sight-reading abilities. The introduction of the alto flute allows true harmony to enter the realm of flute playing, adding richness to a familiar instrument.
The String Ensemble enters new territory with the introduction of tempo and dynamics (speed and loud vs. soft) to the orchestral repertoire. Students will learn to adjust their technique and expectations to the requirements of each individual piece, paying careful attention to the emotional effect on their intended audience. Technical skills will be developed further; each student will know and understand the value and execution of proper bowhold, posture, left-hand position and dexterity, sound production, fingering, scale playing, and slow, in-tune practice at home. The concept of “beauty over speed, quality over quantity” will be a key aspect of practicing and playing at all times.
Private lessons are a critical part of learning a string instrument. Violin, viola and cello have great potential to bring incredible beauty, skill, confidence, and self-discipline to the lives of your children, which is why orchestra class is such an integral part of the music curriculum. That said, they are hard-to-master, challenging, physically asymmetrical instruments that require special attention and one-on-one instruction. For this reason, private lessons are very strongly recommended for all students in orchestra class, regardless of instrument, prior experience, or musical ability. Urban Prairie offers private lessons for violin, viola and cello after school and on weekends for the convenience of parents. Private lessons at UPWS are designed to integrate aspects of the broader Urban Prairie curriculum with individualized music instruction and personal development.
Mr. Garcia teaches private lessons in violin and viola that combine aspects of Waldorf music education with his own conservatory-based approach, in addition to supporting and integrating aspects of the UPWS orchestra curriculum. Ms. Montanari is responsible for teaching private cello lessons and developing the lower strings program at Urban Prairie. She draws on her considerable experience as a performer in bringing a new voice to music education to our school.
Weekly violin and viola lessons are available after school on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, and all day on Saturdays. Cello lessons are currently available on Mondays after school but Fridays may be available if the Monday schedule fills up. All lessons are 30 minutes long and are $30 each. Lessons are billed exclusively through TADS for your convenience. To sign up for lessons, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Please note that there is extremely limited availability for after school violin and viola lessons at this time. There are still a number of slots available on Saturday afternoons, however.
Urban Prairie has an agreement with William Harris Lee & Company (www.whlee.com) to provide quality year-long instrument rentals at a discounted price to our students. Any UPWS student may sign up for instrument rentals regardless of whether he or she is in orchestra class. Renting an instrument from William Harris Lee is optional but highly recommended due to the discounted monthly rate, the quality of their rentals in comparison to other local shops.
A William Harris Lee representative will be at Urban Prairie during the first week of school to work with interested students on instrument sizing for rentals this year. The shop will then deliver the instruments directly to the school during the week of Monday, September 22. If you are interested in renting from William Harris Lee this year, please contact Miguel Garcia at email@example.com with your child’s name and instrument in the “subject” line.
Children The discounted cost of renting an instrument from William Harris Lee is as follows:
Violin: $220 per year
Viola: $240 per year
Cello: $360 per year
All rentals include insurance that covers accidental damage, loss, and theft. Rentals are billed exclusively through TADS for your convenience. All parents must sign a standard rental agreement upon delivery of the instrument. For questions about rentals, please contact Miguel Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org
Miguel Garcia, Music Director
Allegra Montanari, Cello Instructor
Lisa Zimmerman, Rental Manager, William Harris Lee & Company