Music is primarily a practical art form and class music lessons reflect this. Physical movement is central to almost every music lesson in all year groups. A mixture of Kodaly, Dalcrose, instrumental and vocal techniques provide the basis for an accessible but challenging musical education, personally differentiated to meet the ability and prior experience of every pupil who comes here. This means that, although the course progresses incrementally from Foundation to Year 8, we can accommodate pupils who join us in any year, with any degree of musical experience. Everyone is included and pupils make progress at their own level.
Musicians need exceptionally refined motor functions and a sense of rhythm. Dance (from waltzing to 70's disco) develop both of these as the brain is still developing. Most children find these antics hilarious as well as useful. Basic percussion is taught to all pupils when they have mastered pulse.
A sense of pitch is developed through song. Children are taught to sing correctly even at this stage and they are fully involved in the extra curricular musical life of the school; they sing and present at various whole-school events including Christmas services and Harvest.
Years One and Two
Games in which pupils reflect pitch height in physical space are much enjoyed. These add detail and context to the enjoyment of singing. Basic note values can be taught at this age and children can express them in dance and on percussion instruments. We tell stories with percussion sound effects as well as learning traditional skills like learning songs from memory.
In Year two, we build on this by introducing the concept of scale degrees through simple Kodaly techniques. Children are expected to master a higher level of rhythmic precision and complexity on percussion. Tasks are differentiated according to ability. At the end of the year, the simplest elements of rhythmic notation are introduced, again through dance and movement.
Year Three and Four
In Year Three, many pupils choose to learn an instrument. The Director of Music and our peripatetic staff provide opportunities for pupils to try a few different instruments.
When a pupil has chosen, some practical work in music lessons can be undertaken on this instrument, rather than just using keyboards. Pupils gain notation skills through doing first, then learning the relevant symbol.
Pupils in Year 4 and above continue to benefit from visiting instrumentalists who come and inspire pupils on their instruments. Pupils learn to sing in parts for the first time, using Kodaly hand signs and other spacial techniques to enhance pitching and independence of part. This skill really comes into its own in the junior musical productions we stage throughout the year.
Notation in both clefs is taught through physical games and more traditional methods. Kodaly techniques remain an important part of the process. Pupils start to use music ICT, incorporating all of the skills learned so far to compose their own pieces independently and then to perform them.
To help to inspire our pupils, visiting musicians and ensembles come to class on a regular basis.
In the Easter Term, we collaborate with the History Department to learn about medieval music and the world in which it was composed. We will learn a simple madrigal and might even make some pottage to keep us going while we do it!
Singing remains central to the curriculum as well as our extra curricular life. Pupils are introduced to theoretical concepts such as canon through song, and they learn the basics of harmony. ICT helps them to compose music using chords.
Elements of Music and simple analysis techniques are introduced to enhance our pupil's experience of listening.
A child in Year Six is old enough to join the Senior Choir. Any child may join; if they struggle with the complexity of the music, they are supported. This, our most inclusive yet highly accomplished ensemble, performs on a regular basis in some prestigious contexts.
Much greater creative freedom is allowed in this year group. Pupils compose freely as well as within strict technical limitations using ICT. For example, in Lent Term, children compose their own 'film music' using acoustic as well as synthesized sound to a silent film clip. There is an element of competition and younger pupils judge their efforts!
Pupils also compose, then perform, a Ground Bass and an operatic recitative. The melodrama of the latter is usually executed with very considerable enthusiasm indeed...
Music from around the world plays a more prominent role in this year. We learn about Indian Raga and expect a visit from some real Indian musicians to show us how it's done – then it's our turn! African drumming also features through workshops with our percussion teacher and the director of music. We collaborate with the geography department to place this music in context, thus bringing both subjects to life.
Composition reaches it's most sophisticated level in simple binary, ternary and rondo forms. In Easter Term, we synthesise our knowledge of chords, melodic writing and word setting to produce a Pop Song.