Upper School Curriculum Guide
The RCDS Music Department is committed to nurturing creativity and confidence at all levels of learning. We honor music as a living art with inherent value. In addition, we are committed to helping students make connections between music classes, other disciplines, and the wider world. Through the teaching and modeling of empathy and collaboration, we seek to have our classes and ensembles embody a unified spirit.
Music is a language that all can appreciate and learn to "speak" with precision and beauty. Many students in the Upper School participate actively in one or more of the many performing groups such as Concert Choir, Honors Choirs, Wind Ensemble, Honors Jazz Band, and String Orchestra – each of which is scheduled within the school day. The Concert Choir, String Orchestra, and Wind Ensemble receive full academic credit as a sign of the School's commitment to the art and discipline of music.
RCDS offers both performance and non-performance-based music electives. Students often participate in the New York All-State and Area-All State music festivals, and the choir joins forces with adult singers from the RCDS community to sing a major work each year with a professional orchestra at the Festival Chorus Concert. Over the years, the Concert Choir has toured internationally in Europe, Asia, and most recently, Ireland. The Wind Ensemble has traveled throughout the East Coast and to Canada. Our performing ensembles are award winning groups at regional competitions and festivals. Part-time instrumental and voice teachers give private lessons in our teaching studios during the week to approximately 120 students.
COURSE SELECTION GUIDELINES
All Music classes are considered electives and are eligible to receive arts credit towards graduation.
The following courses have no prerequisites:
- Concert Choir
- String Orchestra (prior experience on a string instrument is required)
- Wind Ensemble (prior experience on a band instrument is required)
- Our World in Music
- Music of the Moment
- Music Theory Intensive
- Basic Musicianship
- Studio Composing and Arranging
- Beginning Band
- Musicianship for Performers
The following courses require departmental approval:
- AP Music Theory
- Honors Choir
- Wind Ensemble with Honors Jazz Band
Students interested in auditioning for any of the Honors Choirs or Honors Jazz Band will need approval from the Department Chair. Final auditions happen in the fall. Students hoping to participate should inquire in the spring.
To take AP Music Theory, approval is required from the Department Chair. While there is no course prerequisite for AP Music Theory, a conversation to discuss the student’s musical background is required.
Students interested in private lessons should contact the Private Lesson Coordinator at the beginning of September and be on the lookout for information on e-communications from the school. Private lessons are extracurricular and do not receive academic credit or count toward the arts credit.
AP HOMEWORK GUIDELINES
AP Music Theory: Students should expect to spend 30 minutes a day on written homework and/or ear training. They should be willing to spend up to 45 minutes, but after that marker, they needn't do more.
DEPARTMENTAL POLICIES REGARDING ENTRY INTO HONORS/AP COURSES
- Admission into any of the Honors Ensembles is determined by audition in the fall. A student already in one of the Honors Choirs is guaranteed a spot for the next year in an honors group providing they have maintained an A- or better in the previous year. The teacher reserves the right to re-audition and reconsider the admission of students with a lower grade.
- Admission into Honors Jazz Band is determined by audition at the beginning of the year and requires participation in another major music ensemble of the school (Wind Ensemble or Concert Choir).
- Admission to AP Music Theory is determined by a student’s previous work in the department or by interview to ascertain the student’s musical experience. The student’s math grades may also be considered.
Many students commonly take Concert Choir, String Orchestra, or Wind Ensemble for all four years. Although a student may join in any year, most find the four-year cumulative nature of the experience to be most rewarding.
Honors Choirs and Honors Jazz Band are open to students in Grades 9-12 and are auditioned from the larger groups. While they cannot stand alone in a student's program, they comfortably fit into the student's larger schedule.
A combination of more than one performing ensemble fit concurrently into a student's program. While doing so creates a fuller daytime schedule, there is little evening commitment to these courses. In addition, additional electives in music or other departments can sometimes dovetail with the music ensembles, allowing students to take more than one elective in a single block. For students who are particularly interested in musical theater, many students take Choir along with a Drama class.
Music Theory Intensive or AP Music Theory is mostly commonly taken in the 10th or 12th grade year, though it is open to students in Grades 10-12. Note that these courses are homework bearing. Musicianship for Performers is most commonly taken concurrently with one or more of the performing ensembles.
There are also several non-performance-based classes offered without prerequisites including listening and hands-on courses.
AP MUSIC THEORY
The course fosters an understanding of music by developing a fluency in music notation and ear training skills. Students will study tonal harmony through melodic and harmonic analysis, part writing, dictation, and sight singing (emphasis on ear training not vocal beauty.) Students will take the Advanced Placement exam in Music Theory in May. Preference will be given to students who are members of Concert Choir or Wind Ensemble. (1 unit; Grades 10-12; permission of the department chair required)
The Concert Choir creates a community of singers by preparing and performing several varied choral programs throughout the year including at least one major work such as Mozart's Requiem or Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. The choir gives approximately ten concerts annually both in school and throughout the community. Because of the challenging repertoire studied, it is essential that each member of the choir develop musical literacy. (1 unit; Grades 9-12; no prerequisite or audition required)
HONORS CONCERT CHOIR
A mixed chamber choir, a treble choir, and tenor/bass choir are open by audition to students enrolled in the Concert Choir. Singers working at the honors level rehearse and perform additional repertoire appropriate to each group’s small size and advanced level. Participation in Concert Choir is part of the curriculum. (1 unit; Grades 9-12; placed by audition in the fall)
The Wind Ensemble repertoire is chosen primarily from classic band literature encompassing a variety of music styles. The group performs throughout the year at school events, festivals, and in the larger community. Ensemble rehearsals are devoted to developing a strong sense of pitch, dynamics, phrasing and blend. Membership requires a commitment to personal musical growth through daily practice. In addition to four rehearsals per cycle, assessments are assigned through the SmartMusic program allowing for further individual feedback from the instructor. Each student is strongly urged to take private lessons. (1 unit; Grades 9–12; previous instrumental experience or permission of the instructor is required)
HONORS JAZZ BAND
The Jazz Band is open to qualified instrumentalists by audition. Emphasis is placed on a variety of jazz and rock styles as well as improvisational skills. Additional participation in either Wind Ensemble or Concert Choir is required. (1 unit; 1 period per cycle; Grades 9-12; placed by audition in the fall)
The String Orchestra provides string players the opportunity to rehearse and perform pieces chosen from the classical repertoire and a wide variety of other styles. The group performs throughout the year at school events, festivals, and in the larger community. Emphasis is placed on the art of ensemble playing using repertoire and additional exercises developing sight reading, intonation, bowing techniques, rhythm, improvisation, and especially listening and adapting. Additional opportunities for smaller group work exist within the curriculum. (1 unit; Grades 9-12; previous instrumental experience or permission of the instructor is required)
ADVANCED TOPICS IN MUSIC
This course is designed to allow the advanced student to pursue a concentrated area of interest beyond the RCDS music curriculum. The topic of study must be discussed and planned in the semester prior to taking the course, and students should expect to do additional work on the projects outside the classroom hours. (1/2 unit; fall and spring; department approval required; may be repeated for credit)
BASIC MUSICIANSHIP: WHAT DO THE LITTLE BLACK DOTS MEAN?
Have you always wanted to learn to read music? Do you want to be able to understand what the dots and squiggles on the lines and spaces of a musical staff mean? Do you want to learn how to read notes so you can learn to play piano or guitar, or other instrument? This is your perfect introduction to the language of music. Through this course you will learn to identify notes on the staff in treble and bass clefs, learn to read and write basic rhythms and note values, learn about sharps and flats, identify major and minor scales, and learn how to put together basic chord patterns. (1/2 unit; fall and spring; Grades 9-12; no prerequisite)
EXPLORATIONS IN WORLD MUSIC
Experience and understand the exciting and diverse world of music as a reflection of various cultures, traditions, and national identities. Explore popular, folk, and art music as soundscapes from Africa, India, Asia, the Middle East, and North America. Through live and recorded performances, discussions, and projects, students will gain an appreciation of how each culture organizes and uses music to make sense of the world and their unique place in it. This course meets 4 times per cycle. (1/2 unit; fall and spring; Grades 9-12; no prerequisite)
MUSIC OF THE MOMENT
This course will study music that tops the charts. Through analytical listening along with a study of current events, students will consider how music “speaks” to its desired audience. In turn, students will seek to discover what makes music popular and relevant to a given culture. This course meets 4 times per cycle. (1/2 unit; fall and spring; Grades 9-12; no prerequisite)
MUSIC THEORY INTENSIVE
This course is for students who would like to study the fundamentals of music theory but do not want to pursue it at the AP level. This fall semester course covers the language of tonal music including reading, analyzing, listening, composing, and sight singing. (1/2 unit; fall; Grades 10-12; no prerequisite)
SONGWRITING: GETTING TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER
Students will develop skills to compose their own songs and lyrics. Through individual and collaborative writing projects, each student will work to create pieces that develop their own compositional voice and get to the essence of their desired musical expression. (1/2 unit; spring; Grades 9-12; no prerequisite)
STUDIO COMPOSING AND ARRANGING 1
This is a project-based, semester-long course in music production. It is a wonderful way to unleash your musical creativity regardless of prior musical training. Utilizing the program's instrument sound library along with external microphones to record audio tracks, students will create and mix multi-track original compositions and arrangements in Garageband. In addition, students will develop critical listening skills to be able to hear and describe subtleties in musical compositions as a way of reflecting on their own work and offering feedback to the cohort. Because we will be sharing our creative work with one another, it is important we create an atmosphere of trust and respect. (1/2 unit; fall and spring; Grades 9-12; no prerequisite)
STUDIO COMPOSING AND ARRANGING 2
This is a project-based, semester-long course in music production and extends use of the skills gained in Studio Composition and Arranging 1 into more complex projects. Utilizing the program's instrument sound library along with external microphones to record audio tracks, students will create and mix multi-track original compositions and arrangements in Garageband or Logic Pro. In addition, students will continue to use their critical listening skills to be able to reflect on their own musical compositions and offer constructive feedback to the cohort. Because we will be sharing our creative work with one another, it is important we create an atmosphere of trust and respect. (1/2 unit; fall and spring; Grades 9-12, prerequisite: Studio Composing and Arranging 1; may be repeated)
This course is for students with little or no prior experience who wish to learn to play a band instrument. Group instruction in flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, oboe, bassoon, saxophone, trumpet, French horn, trombone, euphonium, tuba and percussion (drums, mallets, auxiliary) is offered. Topics include the basic skills of producing a proper tone on the instrument, note reading, concepts of rhythm, and ensemble performance. In order to improve at a steady pace and enjoy the instrumental experience, regular practice outside of the class meeting is required. (1/4 credit; fall and spring; Grades 9-11; no prerequisite)
SPECIAL TOPICS IN MUSIC
This course is designed to allow a student or group of students to pursue a concentrated area of music study beyond the RCDS music curriculum. The topic of study must be discussed and planned in the semester prior to taking the course. (1/4 unit; fall and spring; department approval required; may be repeated for credit)
MUSICIANSHIP FOR PERFORMERS
For students enrolled in one of the performing ensembles, this class supplements skills covered in the performing ensembles. Focusing on sight reading and ear training, students further their facility with music literacy. (1/4 unit; fall and spring; Grades 9-12)
PRIVATE LESSONS IN MUSIC
A unique aspect of Rye Country Day School's music program is the opportunity provided for students to study privately with one of the many professional instrumental and voice teachers in our program. One lesson per cycle is scheduled into a student’s free period or after school time. Students who study privately have the opportunity to perform in recitals, school ensembles, as well as to audition for All-County and All-State festivals. Private lessons do not carry any academic credit or fulfill an Arts requirement. Lessons also carry an additional fee billed by the school.
Arrangements may be made for private lessons by calling the Music Department Office at 925-4580 or on the family portal.
WildScats is Rye Country Day’s 12-voice mixed a cappella ensemble. In addition to meeting daily after school, the singers in WildScats also participate in Concert Choir and at least one Honors Choir. Interested students from String Orchestra or Wind Ensemble should contact the Department Chair. Auditions are held in early September each year.