Arts and Music
Rhythm and melody enter into the soul of the well-instructed youth and produce there a certain mental harmony hardly obtainable in any other way. —Plato, The Republic
The study of music engages both sides of the brain as it develops focus, discipline, collaboration, communication, creative expression, and physical co-ordination. Music, a vital contributor to the child’s development, is an acoustical science, mathematical, a study of history, a foreign language and, above all, an art that expresses the spiritual and emotional qualities of being human!
Vocal Music Program: Vocal music is used throughout the Waldorf curriculum here. In the Early Childhood and the early grades programs, vocal music is used by teachers to help organize the day: songs indicate the beginning and end of the school day, when it is time to transition to specific activities, the beginning of lunch time, shoe changing time, cleanup time, and so on. For the youngest children, the teacher intentionally sings the same song in the same way over many days and in time the children naturally join in. Throughout the grades songs also help students learn and retain facts such as multiplication tables, states and capitals, vocabulary in a foreign language, or the anatomy of the skeleton. Songs help students experience the turning of the year more profoundly with seasonal or festival songs. Overall, it is typical for singing to be ongoing in a Waldorf Grade School classroom throughout the school day.
Starting in 5th grade and throughout middle school, vocal music – choir – is also approached as its own subject. Now, the work is much more direct and conscious than the simple learning through repetition that usually takes place in the classrooms. This instruction emphasizes good, healthy vocal production, careful attention to ensemble and listening, and accurate sight singing. In the younger grades tone, pitch, and general musicianship were emphasized. Now in middle school the emphasis is on four-part singing, emphasizing choral tone, blend, and ensemble sensitivity. Choral music has a central place in our curriculum because it develops social awareness and sensitivity subtly and implicitly. It encourages the students to be cooperative and collaborative toward an aesthetic end, and builds confidence through regular performances. Finally, choral music allows our students to be more culturally literate, as the choral repertoire we study spans masterworks of Western music through the ages, as well as traditional vocal music from many cultural backgrounds.
Instrumental Music: Instrumental music instruction is an important part of the curriculum for all students at BVWS. Learning an instrument requires focus, discipline, and perseverance; we nurture these qualities in our students. Instruction begins in first grade with the teaching of simple instruments such as the pentatonic flute. The pentatonic scale produces a supportive experience of perpetual harmony because there is no tension or conflict within the scale; thus, a harmonious sense of well-being is engendered.
In 3rd grade the students cultivate the ear in a living way through the forming of each tone and they take up a stringed instrument: either violin, viola, or cello. In 3rd grade the diatonic recorder is introduced, and with it the interval of the third, which adds color to the harmonic environment. At this point a special working collaboration between home and school is encouraged, to help the child establish a consistent rhythm for practicing. In 4th grade, strings, recorders, and class singing incorporate rounds and chordal harmony. These musical forms are metaphors for the child’s experience of individuality within a group. Introduction to written music is also undertaken at this time.
In 5th-8th grades mixed instrumental ensembles become a part of the curriculum, as does middle school choir. In choir the children are exposed to 2- and 3-part singing of music from all periods and styles. Students continue to play recorders and sing with their classroom teachers through 8th grade. Children have the option to continue with their strings instrument and join orchestra or switch to orchestral band and learn a new woodwind, brass, or percussion instrument in 5th grade. Through careful, incremental instruction and continual expectations of growth and improvement, the teachers are able to draw out and develop the students’ self-discipline through the work of ongoing instrumental music practice and rehearsal.
Music supports the festival life of Boulder Valley Waldorf School, and all assemblies during the school year are infused with musical offerings. Two all-music concerts are presented per year, one during the Winter Holiday season, and one towards the end of the school year. The students are always eager to showcase their well-rounded, developing musical skills.
Visual art, painting and handwork are woven throughout the Waldorf curriculum. In kindergarten, the children experience color through wet-on-wet watercolor painting. They begin simple sewing and finger knitting as a fine motor integrated activity. Beginning in first grade, and continued through middle school, visual arts and painting are an integral part of main lesson; weaving together core academics and creating. From first grade handwork classes begin with direct instruction in knitting with needles, crocheting and embroidery projects.