We honor music as a living art with inherent value, and we are dedicated 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.
In the Lower School
Students develop basic singing skills and practice keeping a steady beat. Then they begin to decode the music they are working on in class using solfege and rhythmic syllables. They practice reading, writing, and composing music on the staff. Starting in Grade 3, students develop instrumental skills by learning the recorder. Students have music class periods two times in a six-day cycle, and fourth graders have an additional chorus period and the opportunity to learn Ukulele. Performances give students a chance to share the skills they have been honing in class.
In the Middle School
Fifth and Sixth Grade Music
The fifth grade music program is structured to provide all students an experience in both band and chorus throughout the year. In chorus, students explore music of various styles and historic periods in several languages. Solfege and ear training are incorporated alongside the study and performance of a variety of choral repertoire. In band, students are introduced to a band instrument with both small group sectionals and larger band rehearsals. They work through a beginning method book, developing a solid skill base to perform elementary band music on their selected instrument. All students participate in several major concerts during the school year.
After experiencing both band and chorus in fifth grade, all sixth graders then take either band or chorus for the full year. Important skills are further developed, such as understanding one’s place in the larger ensemble, listening, patience, and collaboration, alongside the continued technical development with their instrument or singing voice. They also meet in smaller groups for two of their three cycle days to receive more focused attention.
In the choral ensembles at all levels, students develop routines and habits that promote discipline, cooperation, and personal responsibility as an integral part of participation in an ensemble. Through a range of vocal and musical exercises, students learn to establish healthy vocal habits and to sight read music, follow a choral score, and learn basic conducting patterns. In addition, performance repertoire encompasses a variety of musical styles and cultures sung in several voice parts and many languages. The choral curriculum includes two formal concerts during the year and provides several opportunities for informal school and community performances.
Seventh/Eighth Grade Electives
Integrated Choral and Performing Arts
In Grade 7 and 8, students elect to be part of the Integrated Choral and Performing Arts course, where they receive in depth training in the combined theatrical disciplines of music, drama, and dance. Students in this course may also audition for CubScats, the Middle School a cappella ensemble. In addition to devoting part of the course to traditional choral repertoire, students in Integrated Choral and Performing Arts produce a full-scale musical each spring. Recent productions include Annie, The Lion King, Shrek, Mary Poppins, and Seussical.
Other electives: Song Factory is a songwriting course designed for students to compose lyrics and melody, then record their songs with their own ukulele accompaniment into GarageBand. Side Notes is a vocal ensemble open to all Middle School students who enjoy singing. No prior experience necessary for these elective courses.
Seventh/Eighth Grade Concert Band
The Seventh and Eighth Grade Concert Band provides an opportunity for students with prior instrumental performing experience to participate in an instrumental ensemble on wind, brass, and percussion instruments. Through classroom instruction, band method books/technique books, and appropriate concert repertoire, students develop a solid skill base to interpret and perform ensemble literature. They also benefit from more individual attention in the context of small sectional rehearsals. The instrumental music curriculum includes two formal concerts during the year. In addition, students of the Grade 7/8 Concert Band have the opportunity to audition for the select Middle School Jazz Band.
In the Upper School
Both performing ensembles and non-performing music courses at RCDS carry full academic credit as a demonstration of the School’s commitment to music as an academic discipline.
The Upper School supports five major choral ensembles. In addition to an eclectic repertoire, sight reading and music literacy are part of the choral curriculum. All singers participate in the large Concert Choir, usually around 70 students. From that group, there are additional auditioned singing groups. There are three smaller sections of Honors Choir: Madrigals (mixed SATB), Bel Canto (upper voices only), and Bro Canto (lower voices only). The twelve-voice WildScats, our a cappella vocal jazz group, is the only extra-curricular offering of the School’s singing groups and is auditioned from the honors choir roster.
All choir students participate in the Festival Chorus Concert, which combines with the Evening Choir of adults from the community to perform with full orchestra each January. There are two additional formal concerts during the year along with informal opportunities.
Members of the Concert Choir have toured both domestically and internationally over the years, with trips to Japan, Italy, Sweden, Austria, the Czech Republic, Spain, Croatia, Cuba and, most recently, Ireland.
The Upper School Wind Ensemble provides an opportunity for students with prior instrumental performing experience to participate in an instrumental ensemble on wind, brass, and percussion instruments. Through classroom instruction, band method books/technique books and appropriate concert repertoire, students develop a solid skill base to interpret and perform ensemble literature. Students also benefit from more individual attention in the context of small sectional rehearsals. Each quarter, students work towards individual playing goals through the SmartMusic practice and assessment software program. Students may also audition to join the Upper School Honors Jazz Band. The instrumental music curriculum includes two formal concerts during the year along with other informal opportunities.
Upper School Non-Performing Music Courses
The Upper School also offers non-performing courses in AP Music Theory, Music Technology/Studio Recording, Basic Musicianship, Songwriting, Explorations in World Music, and Beginning Band.