Music Curriculum

Grades K-5   |   Grades 6-8




Curriculum Overview: Grades K-5

Music-making at Holy Family is a "hands-on" process. Though notational and theory skills are necessary for an accomplished musician, it is essential that young students experience music by singing, moving, and performing. Our Orff-based music program (Carl Orff - German musician and educator of the twentieth century) follows the learning sequence of language development:

  • learning to speak through imitation (experience)
  • learning to "read" the symbols for speech (experience + symbols = notation)
  • learning to write and verbally communicate (composition and performance)

Orff's starting point is rhythm. It is not taught mathematically (subdividing the whole note) but, rather, is taught through speech patterns (proverbs, sayings, poems, words, rhymes). Speech patterns make it possible for children to grasp every type of meter without difficulty. These are then translated to body rhythms and then to instrumental accompaniments. Melodic development grows from the child's use of singsong chants, nursery songs, folk songs and play-party songs. Children recite, clap, stamp and sing: they learn to reproduce their rhythmical findings on instruments specially suited for the purpose. They always work in groups. From the outset, they experience the contrast of solo vs. chorus, of melody vs. accompaniment.

The foundation for our children's musical experience is found in the wealth of American folk songs, play-party games, street chants, nursery rhymes, as well as contemporary musical pieces. We use McMillan's SHARE THE MUSIC as the main resource for instruction, supplementing with other activities. Over the years, we have acquired a large instrumentarium for the students' use - bass xylophones, bass metallophone, alto xylophones, alto metallophones, soprano xylophones, soprano metallophone, soprano and alto glockenspiels and a complete set of bass bars. You hear them at the Christmas Concert! There are many assorted drums, bells, scrapers and shakers. All of our music-making through singing, playing instruments and moving, lays a firm foundation for understanding the basic concepts of melody, rhythm, form, timbre, dynamics, and tempo.

The second prong of our musical instructional program is that of learning the music and symbols of liturgical worship. The elementary students have weekly "liturgical sing" rehearsals where new music is learned, more familiar music is reviewed, and various worship topics discussed. Students are encouraged to add their instrumental talents to worship performances. Holy Family also has a very accomplished "Student Choir." This choir is comprised of Grades 3-8 and also prepares students to take leadership roles in the music ministry of the Church.

"Of their nature, the arts are directed toward expressing in some way the infinite beauty of God in works made by human hands."
Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy


Curriculm Overview: Grades 6-8

The junior high music program continues the improvisational nature of music making begun in the elementary grades. Singing, instrumental playing, and movement are the means of expressing musical concepts such as melody, rhythm, harmony, form, tempo, and timbre. Music literacy – the ability to read, write, and perform music – is also highly stressed in the upper grades. The students are also introduced to a brief history of western music, which is intertwined with the development of the Catholic liturgy.

Historical Elements:
Sixth graders will study American composers who incorporate American folk literature into their music. These include Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Scott Joplin, George Gershwin, and John Philip Sousa. Students will also be introduced to Ragtime and Jazz. Seventh graders will study church Baroque composers such as Mouret, Pachelbel, Vivaldi, Handel, and J.S. Bach. Eighth graders will study a brief history of Christian prayer forms and music, concentrating on the Medieval Era in music. Different forms and their time periods, such as chant, polyphony, and hymns will be introduced. Students will also learn how these forms are used today.

Liturgical Elements:
Students will explore liturgical symbolism in our general Mass repertoire and occasionally lead prayer in and out of class. They will also learn to use liturgical and “secular” music to enhance their relationship with Christ.

Prayer Journal:
Each student will keep a journal, located in the music room, where they write a weekly reflection on a prayer song brought in by one of their peers. The students take turns volunteering each week and by the end of the semester everyone is given the opportunity to bring in a prayer song. The lyrics are approved by Mrs. Koenig. This is to aid in critical listening skills, spiritual and linguistic development, and in the self-expression of each student.

Music Application:
The concepts of melody, rhythm, form, and harmony are reviewed. Students will continue to develop musical skills by singing, playing, accompanying, and composing simple melodies with their voices and various types of instruments. They will also use improvisation and learn how to play and sing in “canon.”

Students will learn how to navigate the program “GarageBand” to enhance their learning of musical concepts. They will also explore various internet resources to reinforce musical skills taught in class.

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