Music takes many forms at Moorestown Friends School, with instruction beginning in Preschool and continuing through electives in Upper School. Performance opportunities include concerts, talent shows and “coffee houses,” and students may join vocal choirs as well as instrumental and string ensembles. The digital recording studio allows students to compose, arrange and record music.
The music program in the Lower School is based on developmentally appropriate experiences at each grade level. Through singing, chanting, playing instruments, moving, listening, and learning basic music notation, students develop knowledge about essential musical concepts such as rhythm, melody and harmony, form, expression, and timbre. The classroom repertoire is rich and varied: it includes folk songs, music from various countries and cultures, and music that spans from classical through the current day.
Students are given the opportunity to perform for others during the course of the year. These performances range from performing for other classes informally or during an assembly, performing for grandparents and special friends on Grandparents’ Day, presenting our annual Winter and Spring Concerts, and taking part in the Choir Showcase — a concert presented by third and fourth grade singers, along with choir members from the Middle and Upper Schools.
In all grade levels, particular emphasis is placed on developing a sense of steady beat and rhythm, matching pitch and developing good habits and a healthy tone quality in singing, and understanding the concepts of pitch, rhythm, tempo, dynamics, form, timbre, and texture. Students also work to develop appropriate technique on classroom instruments, increase their coordination while playing those instruments, and develop ensemble skills.
Classroom instruments include un-pitched percussion, such as rhythm sticks, shakers, triangles, tambourines, jingles, hand drums, tubanos, bongos, and a number of auxiliary instruments. The classroom is also equipped with a full Orff instrumentarium, which includes varying sizes of xylophones, metallophones, and glockenspiels. Students learn to read basic rhythms and the letter names of the notes in the treble clef, which they can apply to learning new songs on the xylophone, recorder (in third and fourth grades), or any other instrument at their disposal. They also cultivate their musical creativity through experiences in improvisation and composition.
Second grade students have a special violin class several times each week with a strings specialist. The purpose of the program, using the aural Suzuki approach which focuses on the enrichment of the human spirit, is to reinforce the listening, coordination, cooperation and study skills that are essential to any learning. The skills they develop through this program are applicable to learning across the curriculum, and they also set up the students well for the more advanced musical learning in third and fourth grades. Students begin learning recorder in third grade, and they develop more advanced skills and fingering in fourth grade. Third and fourth graders also increase their ensemble experience through numerous instrumental ensembles in class and through participation in the lower school choir.
Middle School Choral Program
Middle School students are given specialized opportunities to hone their singing skills, learn to read music, become engaged performers, collaborate with their peers, and experience different styles of music. Middle School Choir performs pop songs, spirituals, folk songs, multi-cultural music, and standard literature in multiple parts, often with movement or basic staging for an exciting performance experience.
5th Grade Choir
This choir, unique to Grade 5, provides singers with a rigorous course covering basic singing technique, introduction to notation, experience with foreign languages and movement. The choir meets twice every six days, performs at the Winter and Spring Concerts, and is featured in the Choir Showcase in February.
Middle School Girls’ Choir
Girls in Grades 6-8 are introduced to intermediate musical terms and technique, engage in basic sight reading, and work on bringing energy, expression, blend, and comfort to their growing voices. Girls’ Choir meets once every six days and combines repertoire with other Middle School choirs for the Winter and Spring concerts. They are also featured in the Choir Showcase in February and are often leaders in the Middle School Musical each spring.
Middle School Boys’ Choir
Boys in Grades 6-8 are introduced to intermediate musical terms and technique, engage in basic sight reading, and work to obtain control, understanding, and enjoyment of the often tricky changing male voice. Boys’ Choir receives some mentorship from Upper School male singers, meets once every six days, and combines repertoire with other Middle School choirs for the Winter and Spring concerts. They are also featured in the Choir Showcase in February.
Upper School students who elect to participate in music engage in performance, develop creative skill sets through composition, study the history and evolution of music, and begin to master their skills as musicians in AP Music Theory. The instrumental program includes the Upper School Ensemble (for wind, brass, and percussion players), String Ensemble, Guitar Ensemble, and Jazz Ensemble. The choral program includes two performing choirs: MFS Singers, a co-ed choir, and Women’s Choir. The Choir Showcase combines all seven performing vocal groups at MFS from the Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools in an exciting thematic Choir Showcase concert event each February. All choral and instrumental ensembles perform at two other concerts annually, the Winter and Spring Concerts, in addition to several annual events, workshops, and community outreach trips.
Fifth grade students choose to participate in either the Fifth Grade Choir, the Fifth Grade String Ensemble, or the Fifth Grade Instrumental Ensemble. In Grades 6, 7, and 8, students may choose to play in either the Middle School Ensemble or the Middle School String Ensemble.
The Upper School Symphonic Ensemble plays a wide range of material, ranging from traditional symphonic band literature to jazz arrangements. This group, in alternating years, participates in national music festivals. There is also an Upper School String Ensemble, which is sometimes combined with the Symphonic Ensemble to comprise a small orchestra.
Contemporary/Advanced Jazz Ensemble offers students at the most advanced level an opportunity to play challenging contemporary and traditional jazz works at several events and concerts throughout the year. Bass and guitar ensembles are also offered courses.
In addition, members of the MFS music faculty and other adjunct music teachers offer after-school private instruction for several different instruments.
Music Theory and Study
Middle School students study music theory and music history as part of the Arts curriculum rotation, along with theater, studio art, art history, and woodworking. In Upper School, music theory and AP Music Theory are both offered. Minor courses are also offered in composition, recording arts, and popular music history.