Music: Curriculum

Saint Ann’s students experience music as performers, composers, and historians. The curriculum provides expansive opportunities by incorporating a wide selection of courses and a diversity of instructional approaches that enable a well-rounded musical education. In all of our programs, at every age level, we celebrate the vitality of music, and make it a central part of life at Saint Ann’s.

Instruction begins in the Preschool and continues in the Lower School. Early years focus on singing, beginning instrumental skills, and creative movement. Utilizing the proven methods of Dalcroze and Kodaly, and emphasizing the use of Orff instruments and techniques, students develop pitch recognition, become rhythmically aware, and connect sound with physical activity. We introduce young singers to a wide repertoire of songs from around the world.

Beginning in fourth grade we offer string instruction. Students choose from violin or cello, and take lessons either before or after school. Third-grade chorus provides a deeper engagement with singing and is open to all.

In fourth grade students meet two times weekly in small groups to continue their development of the skills introduced in lower school. Teachers continue instruction in notation of pitch and rhythm through singing, dictation exercises, ear training, and recorder playing. Teachers continue to use Orff instruments. Students explore music as part of history and culture. Exploration of the great masters of classical music, jazz, and world music emphasizes critical listening skills. In the early spring instrumental teachers begin to visit classes to demonstrate the instruments that students will choose to study in fifth grade. Many fourth graders elect to sing in the Lower Middle School Chorus (grades four and five). Students who began violin, viola or cello in third grade continue in small classes, developing their skills to prepare for ensembles and chamber music.

In fifth grade each student elects to study an instrument for a full year. We offer clarinet, flute, horn, oboe, percussion, and trumpet. Saint Ann’s provides instruments and all classes are taught by professional musicians. Many students continue to delight in singing in Lower Middle School Chorus. In sixth grade students can continue instrumental study. String players generally join Camerata, a large ensemble of violin, viola and cello. Advanced string players and pianists can play in chamber ensembles. Sixth graders can begin to participate in Middle School Singers, singing music in two and three parts and performing two concerts a year in repertoire that ranges from baroque to popular song. Music Lab, a very popular program, encompasses composition, technology and music production, and is held in our well-equipped music lab.

In seventh and eighth grade options expand as students have acquired a broader range of skills. Bassoon, guitar, saxophone and trombone are offered. Woodwind and percussion students can elect to participate in Woodwind Percussion Ensemble. Students can begin to study jazz improvisation in Jazz Techniques class. Brass Techniques offers third-year trumpet and horn players a class to further hone their technique and musicianship skills. Music lab classes continue, and topics in music literature and history are covered in Words and Music class, an exploration of the complex symbiosis of these two realms of human expression. Seventh and eighth graders also continue to participate in Middle School Singers.

In the High School students are offered broad musical opportunities. Composition and theory classes incorporate technology to help students progress at their individual level as they learn the language of music. In the music lab students can study electronic music composition and often score student-written films and plays. Music history and literature classes include Jazz History, History of Western Music, Opera, and Broadway/Musical Theater. An extensive voice program emphasizes both solo and choral singing through the Vocal Study and Ensembles course. All students enrolled in that course also participate in High School Chorus. Frequently classes attend concerts at Lincoln Center and operas at the Met, taking full advantage of the musical riches that New York City offers.

Our program is closely tailored to the needs of individual students. A thriving chamber music program engages our most advanced instrumentalists, selected through audition. Consort, a chamber orchestra that plays without a conductor, represents the best of our performance program, letting students take charge in their performances while rehearsing under the guidance of masterful teachers. Wind Ensemble offers intermediate and advanced wind players the chance to improve ensemble skills. Chamber Orchestra provides large ensemble experience before students join Consort. Students who have participated in jazz techniques classes in middle school continue, performing in combos and honing their skills in improvisation and ensemble playing. Brass Choir offers high school brass players a chance to explore the magnificent repertoire of brass ensemble music.

The school year at Saint Ann’s is filled with musical activity. Voice recitals, jazz evenings, chamber music concerts, choral and instrumental performances and collaboration with poetry, film, dance and theater classes provide a wonderfully creative and diverse world for students to explore. Our students explore opportunities outside of our walls, performing in chamber music competitions and jazz festivals. Master classes feature distinguished artists who visit and work with our students informally, inspiring the entire community. Our First Monday Concert series, open to the public, features faculty, guests and alumnae/i, often in collaboration, bringing Saint Ann’s musical life to the wider community.