Music Education at Spring Garden

GrimesThere is a debate of which came first — music or language. But one thing is for sure, the role of music in human history is as essential and prevalent as language itself. It is used to this day for ritual, expression and community. This is what Mr. Edward Grimes gathered to share with parents at Spring Garden on the morning of March 25th, as he discussed music education at each of the grade levels.

He described the music curriculum as a layering process that corresponds to the methodology of teaching throughout Waldorf Education. What is taught in the beginning, or early grades, is never lost or “moved beyond” so much as layered upon.

In the early years, this applies to music as an expression and embodiment of imagination. In first and second grade, children learn music from the pentatonic scale both in song and on their flutes or recorders. The songs are rich in story, movement and expression, so that the children can learn what it is to imagine through music.

In third grade, the nine year change means children are ready to begin learning the language of music. A diatonic scale is introduced, notes are named by letter, and children learn basic music notation such as the scale and cleff. Third graders also begin Solfege – a music education method used to teach pitch and sight singing.

Fourth grade brings fraction studies and fractions bring quarter, eighth and sixteenth notes, which then lends to teaching rhythms, and rounds and some simple harmony. Now that the language of music has been introduced, children begin to play musical instruments, starting with the violin.

CellosGrade five is ready for three parts in choral music and will sing Glorious Apollo as part of their study of the Greeks. Accidentals are also introduced in this grade and new keys are taught beyond the key of C.

In class six, there begins an amazing opportunity. Written music from the time period of study — Medieval Times — is now available! The children can be given Gregorian Chants and other time period pieces to learn. Acoustics are also studied this year. And class six students, who are more attuned to their outside world, can begin to also attune themselves to what lies within.

They can be taught to think about, and influence, the sound of their own voice — an instrument which can only be seen through the mind’s eye and can only be changed with subtle manipulation of their physical selves. Class Six students can also choose different instruments to play beyond the strings.

Middle School then layers skills and practice upon all that has been learned before. Ensemble choirs read music and sing in harmony and rhythm. Site singing also begins and Solfege study continues. And Orchestra is now part of every student’s curriculum.

Through it all, Mr. Grimes takes great care in choosing the most appropriate music for the students in each grade. He says, “I don’t teach pieces of music. I teach the music in the pieces.” As a final thought he encouraged the parents to expose their children to live music and help them experience the human connection: “Seeing one human make music, which they then experience first hand, is crucial for learning and human connection.”

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