Music is an essential component of the curriculum at The School in Rose Valley, and is ever-present throughout the school. In fact, only a portion of the children’s musical experiences at SRV take place in the Music Room.
All of the children, from 3-day preschool and up, have Music as a special subject. The Music Room is set up primarily as an open space. This is because a critical element of the music curriculum is movement. Research indicates that if children can feel the music and move to its beat, their capabilities for playing and creating music are greatly increased. So the program has space and makes time during every class for musical movement and dancing, from very young children moving freely with scarves to classical music, to older children playing complex clapping games. A universal favorite with all ages is “Freeze dancing” – dancing to a variety of musical genres and freezing when the music stops.
The second most important element of the music curriculum is singing. Again, research indicates that the more children sing, the greater the likelihood that they will develop good pitch-matching ability and audiation (inner hearing) skills, which lead to enhanced musical ability in any area. Beginning in preschool, music classes include singing and emphasize correct sound production. All of our students sing often and everywhere. In the Music Room, much of what they sing comes from SRV’s own songbooks, updated and published every decade or so to reflect the community’s attachment to traditional and new songs from many cultures.
The Music Room has many musical instruments for the children to play. Young children enjoy and benefit from practice keeping the beat with a variety of un-pitched percussion instruments. Older children use the barred Orff xylophones, and begin to learn to play recorders and tone chimes. There are enough instruments for ensemble work, some pieces composed and conducted by the oldest children.
Performance cafés, that are held in the gym, are a highlight of the year for the music students. While their classmates have lunch, interested children may perform songs, dances or instrumental pieces for an appreciative peer audience. Most of the school community also gathers once or twice a year in the gym or a local auditorium for a student performance of songs in seasonal concerts. The kindergartners visit retirement homes every year to sing for the residents and “cheer people up.”
Guest artists sometimes offer hands-on workshops and/or special performances for the children. These often feature music from different cultures, and may be related to a social studies theme being studied by one or more groups. We also take lots of musical field trips, either as individual groups or the whole school. In recent years the kindergartners and up have attended concerts at Swarthmore College, and a performance of “Peter and the Wolf” at the Wilmington Opera House.
There are several adjunct programs that supplement the music program and curriculum. Over half of the children participate in an optional chorus for second graders and up. These children work together once a week during the school day, learning more advanced voice techniques and singing in parts. Children from third grade and up may also choose to join the recorder ensemble, which meets weekly during one noon recess.
For more about the music curriculum, see Music curriculum page.
In addition to what happens during music classes, chorus and recorder ensemble, children at SRV have multiple and varied musical experiences throughout the school. So really, almost every classroom in the school may be considered part of the Music Room.
Many of the classrooms in the school have instruments that the children may play and play with, including drums, keyboards and guitars. Singing, sometimes accompanied by a teacher on keyboard or guitar, occurs often during classroom morning meetings, especially in the younger groups. There are computers in the older students’ classrooms that the students may use to compose and record music. Most years the oldest group’s spring play includes original compositions.
The Spanish program includes lots of singing, chanting and movement. Music also often features heavily in classrooms’ social studies, as groups study different times, places and cultures around the world.
Finally, there are a few all-school music traditions at SRV that contribute to our unique sense of community. Every Wednesday morning, most of the children and teachers and many parents gather in the Music Room for a morning Sing. Together, we warm and rev ourselves for the day singing gorgeous medieval rounds, classic American folk songs and silly childhood tunes. The community also sings together during Friday assemblies, which are planned and hosted by the children.
There is a traditional all-school dancing event at SRV as well. On the first Saturday of May, the school holds a May Fair, the largest community event of the year. As part of this day, all of the children in the school take part in a dance performance. The youngest children’s dances usually involve a song or simple story. Middle grade children often learn dances from around the world as part of their social studies, and perform these at the Fair. The oldest group dances a difficult and spectacular maypole dance that always impresses new members of the community and brings tears to the eyes of those who are winding up their days at SRV.