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Lower School

Instructional Philosophy


The Music Department at George Washington Academy purposes to instill in students an appreciation for music, to give them opportunities to be creative and imaginative, and to give them lifelong skills for further and continued enrichment. These skills include reading music, creating music, performing, and analyzing performances. The Music Department seeks to develop musical literacy in a wide variety of contexts, and provide outlets for experimentation with and creative organization of ideas. In addition, the music program at George Washington Academy strives to encourage and enhance student success across academic and extra-curricular disciplines. The school recognizes the importance of providing students with a strong background in music, so that they are well-rounded students both academically and artistically.



students in music classinstruments


Program Overview



The kindergarten program is designed to expose children to musical ideas through creative movement and play. The students develop vocal and performance skills through the use of speaking and singing games, and begin to feel the steady beat with their bodies and classroom instruments. Students listen and respond to music from many times and places through structured and unstructured movement and dance activities. They are introduced to the elements of music through creative experiences with musical opposites such as long and short, high and low, and fast and slow. By the end of kindergarten, students should be able to demonstrate a basic kinesthetic awareness of concepts such as beat, rhythm, pitch, dynamics, tempo, and timbre.

Lower Elementary

During the lower elementary years, students begin to associate musical concepts with clearly defined musical terms. These ideas are introduced through carefully selected stories, songs, dances, and instrumental activities from around the world. Once students have developed a solid experiential understanding of a musical concept, they begin to discover ways of naming and representing the sounds they have discovered, and they apply their understanding by creating music of their own.

  • Rhythm: Students learn to define and demonstrate the difference between beat and rhythm. They learn that long and short sounds can be written and read using different kinds of musical notes, and they compose and perform simple rhythms with vocal syllables (ta, ti-ti, etc.), body percussion, and classroom instruments.
  • Pitch: Students learn that they can create high and low sounds with their voices and with musical instruments. They discover the relationship between the size of an object and the sound it produces, and they learn that these sounds can be represented using letter names (A, B, C…), numbers (1, 2, 3…) and solfege syllables (Do, Re, Mi…). They learn that pitches can move up or down by step, skip, or leap, and that high and low sounds can be represented by notes at the top or bottom of the musical staff. Finally, they learn to create and perform simple melodies on Orff instruments by rote and using simple notation.
  • Harmony: Students learn to distinguish between melody (a series of pitches played one after another) and harmony (two or more pitches played at the same time). They begin to play simple harmonic accompaniments on Orff instruments.
  • Dynamics and Tempo: Students learn that sounds can be loud, soft, fast or slow, and that the loudness, softness, or speed of sounds can be represented with words such as forte, piano, largo and allegro. They they recognize that tempo and dynamics can be used to create specific effects in their music.
  • Timbre: Students learn that different voices and materials produce different kinds of sounds. They distinguish between wood, skin, and metal soundmakers, and they discover that sounds can be produced in many different ways (e.g. striking, shaking, blowing, buzzing, strumming, and plucking). They select instruments with different timbres to create specific effects in their music.
  • Vocal, Instrumental, and Performance Skills: Students learn to differentiate between their speaking and singing voices, and to match pitches using echo-singing songs and games. They learn how to play classroom percussion instruments with correct technique, and they perform for others in school concerts and assemblies.
  • Music Appreciation and Analysis: Students recognize that composers from many times and places use the elements of music in different ways. They discover that music has a social and historical context that gives it meaning and purpose.


Upper Elementary

The upper elementary music program builds upon and extends what children have learned in the lower grades. Students experience increasingly complex musical ideas through story, movement, and song, and they create and represent sounds in increasingly sophisticated ways.

  • Rhythm: Students learn to count and subdivide the beat, and to read and write rhythms with dotted notes, sixteenth notes, and syncopation.
  • Pitch: Students learn the lines and spaces of the treble clef, and read and write simple melodies using staff notation.
  • Harmony: Students learn that harmony can be created in different ways. They use their voices and pitched percussion instruments to create rounds, countermelodies, chords and ostinati.
  • Dynamics and Tempo: Students learn about increments and variations in dynamics and tempo, and they describe changing sounds with words such as crescendo, diminuendo, accelerando, and ritardando. They recognize that changes in dynamics and tempo can change the mood of a piece of music.
  • Timbre: Students learn that instruments create vibrations in different ways, and that they can be categorized by their methods of sound production. They learn to classify instruments according to their instrument families (brass, woodwind, percussion, string), and to differentiate between different vocal ranges (soprano, alto, tenor, bass). Students create and respond to music with different timbres, and they give reasons for their musical preferences and choices.
  • Vocal, Instrumental, and Performance Skills: Students continue to practice vocal and percussion skills, and begin to learn the correct technique for playing wind instruments. They apply their knowledge of staff notation to their study of the recorder, and learn to play simple melodies with proper articulation, hand position, fingering and rhythm. The optional Fifth Grade band program allows selected students the opportunity to receive group instruction in a variety of brass, woodwind and percussion instruments. All students practice rehearsal etiquette and stage deportment in preparation for performances at school assemblies and concerts.
  • Music Appreciation and Analysis: Students analyze ways in which composers from many times and places use the elements of music in their compositions. They describe the social and historical contexts that infuse music with meaning and purpose.


The Lower School Music Program aims to create students who understand that sounds can be produced, represented, and altered in many different ways to create meaningful works of art. In practice, this means that students understand how the elements of music work together in different social and historical contexts. They demonstrate vocal and instrumental proficiency and a solid understanding of basic musical notation. They listen and respond to music with their bodies, minds, and hearts, and they discover the joy of participating in the creative act of music-making.

Extra-Curricular Ensembles

4th- and 5th-Grade students at George Washington Academy have the opportunity to join three school choirs, which rehearse during students’ recess break. Our largest group, the Heartbeat Choir, is open to anyone who wishes to come and have a great time singing and moving to accessible, upbeat music. The Peace Choir is a smaller, auditioned group that spreads the message of friendship and inclusion through song, and the Honor Choir is a carefully selected group of ten dedicated singers who travel to a different school each year to participate in a regional choral event. All three groups have opportunities to perform at assemblies, school concerts, and other events.

Cross-Curricular Connections

Music can enhance student learning in language, mathematics, science, and social studies. Through music, students develop connections between sounds and symbols, and transfer that awareness to the study of spoken and written texts in any language. They discover that, like literature, music can tell stories, and is part of the story of human life. In singing, they also find an enjoyable way to practice English vocabulary, pronunciation, reading, and grammar.

Music is full of mathematical concepts, including time, order, measurement, counting, addition, division, fractions, mapping and graphing. Students learn to see the musical staff as a grid in which the vertical movement of pitches on lines and spaces is plotted across the horizontal axis of time.

Through music, students learn science concepts related to vibration and sound production, and they develop logical, spatial, fine-motor and kinesthetic skills as they discover the relationships between abstract aural concepts and the physical world around them.

Students learn social studies concepts by studying the role of the arts in different cultural and historical contexts. They learn social skills and develop a sense of belonging by participating in musical ensembles, and they develop character traits such as cooperation, teamwork, perseverance, responsibility, and self-control by working together to achieve common musical goals.

As students respond to music creatively, they discover that it is closely related to other art forms, such as dance, drama, and visual arts. Most importantly, they discover the intrinsic value of music as a language of the heart that is accessible to anyone with ears and a creative spirit. They realize that everyone has a musician within them, and that music provides us with experiences of joy and beauty that are unlike any other.

Upper School

The music department strives to instill in students an appreciation for music, to give them the opportunities to be creative and imaginative, and to give them lifelong skills for further and continued enrichment. These skills include reading music, creating music, performing and analyzing performances. Course objectives include developing an understanding of musical language in a wide variety of contexts, and providing outlets for experimentation with and creative organization of ideas.

Band is available as an elective to Middle School students. Students are introduced to all major wind and percussion instruments and build on the fundamentals of music notation and reading learned in elementary school. They also practice instrument responsibility, performance etiquette, music appreciation, and overall involvement in the arts. In 7th and 8th grades, the fundamentals are reinforced while adding new material to the repertoire by learning more varied music and mastering additional technical exercises and advanced musical expression. Band students participate in several concerts throughout the year both on and off GWA’s campus. The goal of the middle school music program is to instill a love for music that will remain with the student beyond their middle school years.

In High School, possible course offerings include Intermediate/Advanced Band, Music Appreciation, and Choral Ensemble.


student playing clarinet