WBS Music Curriculum and Ensembles
The Windermere Band program begins in 4th grade. Students involved in the program start out learning the basics of instrument assembly and maintenance, posture, sound production, tone, rhythm, and reading music. Students display their achievements as a full group on a concert in May. In 5th grade, students continue to develop, refine, and apply those skills and begin to work on more advanced concepts, including changes in articulation, tempo, dynamics and other aspects of musical performance. As a group, the 5th-grade band works toward being able to play NYSSMA level 1 band music by the end of the year. The group has frequently attended the NYSSMA Major Organizational Festival for ratings, and has consistently earned Gold Medals (and even a Gold with Distinction!) The 5th-grade band also has a culminating performance each year as part of the Summer Music Festival at Fantasy Island.
In addition to group performances, students are encouraged to share their musicianship with the community around them. In the past, in addition to performances for their peers and families, small ensembles and soloists have performed at the Smallwood Book Fair, the Smallwood Pancake Breakfast, for the Amherst Retired Teachers, and at both ECMEA and NYSSMA solo festivals. Smallwood has had a representative in almost every Elementary All-County Band for the last 15 years! Most students leave Smallwood able to perform soloistically at a NYSSMA level 1, with many students already performing at level 2 and 3.
As part of the program, students attend a weekly lesson during the school day. Students are asked to practice 20 minutes per day to refine and maintain their skills. Weekly assignments are given and are indicated on a practice record sheet for each student. Students are assessed on their performance at each lesson.
Students are highly encouraged to continue their musical experience by participating in middle school ensembles.
Our General Music curriculum is based upon the research of Edwin Gordon and follows the Music Learning Theory. This theory describes the way in which children learn music and follows a set sequence of musical skills and concepts. As a brief overview, children at Smallwood are taught music in much the same way that we learn a language: first, we listen and absorb the sounds, learning to discriminate between sounds. Then we learn specific words (we call these patterns in music), and we speak/sing them, creating ever more complicated sentences as we go along. We then learn to read these familiar patterns, and finally begin writing them ourselves. Music follows this same pattern. In kindergarten, the children are absorbing the sounds in many tonalities and meters and beginning to identify same and different sounds. In first grade, we begin reading our “words”, which are rhythm and tonal patterns. As we continue along, we learn to read and write more and more complicated music, ending in fifth grade with composing our own pieces. More can be learned about Music Learning Theory at www.giml.org, and hopefully, your child will impress you with the knowledge that they are gaining about music. Students receive music class once each week for 35 minutes.
All students in grades 3, 4 & 5 are members of a choral ensemble. Each chorus meets once per week for 40 minutes. In our rehearsals, we learn about topics such as harmony/part singing, reading music notation, creating beautiful sounds with the proper use of breathing, posture and tonal exercises, and working together as an ensemble. Grade 3 Chorus and Grade 4 Chorus each have one spring performance. Grade 5 Chorus perform concerts in December and May and put on a musical each year in June.
Smallwood Drive Elementary offers Orchestral Instrumental Music for students in grades 4 and 5. The goal of the program is an introduction to playing a musical instrument through individual skill development and group performance. The string instruments offered are violin, viola, and cello. As part of the program, students attend a weekly 30-minute small group lesson during the school day. Students also will attend weekly rehearsals for their performing group in order to prepare for concert performances.
5th-grade orchestra performs 3 concerts per year, including a performance with the other Amherst Schools as part of our District Orchestra Concert. 4th-grade orchestra performs a Spring Concert along with the 4th-grade chorus.