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Music at the middle school level

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Middle school curriculum

Sixth Grade

The core of the general music curriculum is singing, tonal, and rhythmic skill development with creativity, composition, and improvisation. The sixth grade music program continues the tonal and rhythm skill study begun in the elementary school. This ten week class is focused on the American Folk song. The classes will concentrate on proper use of the singing voice and executive skills. These skills include posture, correct breathing, use of the head voice, vowel purity, and consonant clarity. Students will sing unison and 2-part music. In addition, students will write and perform a rhythmic composition as well as study musical symbols and terms. Students also begin using computer software to compose and notate music.

Seventh Grade

Seventh grade music further develops vocal executive skills and practice of tonal and rhythm patterns. There will be an in-depth study of the evolution of Jazz beginning with Blues, Call & Response, Gospels, and Spirituals. Students will sing songs which reflect these genres.

In conjunction with the study of Jazz, students will learn to play electric keyboards. They will demonstrate their ability to play major, minor, and blues scales as well as chords, 12 bar blues, and simple piano accompaniments.

Eighth Grade

Eighth grade music continues to develop vocal executive skills and practice of tonal and rhythm patterns. Through the study of American Musical Theatre, students will compose and create their own songs, in a cooperative group setting. Students will use music technology to notate and record their compositions.

Performing Music Groups

Farnsworth Middle School has three types of performing music consisting of Band and Orchestra (considered as Instrumental Music), and Chorus. Learning to play a musical instrument is an excellent way for a child to gain a wide range and rich variety of musical experiences that can last a lifetime. Students who have a strong interest in music and are self-disciplined are encouraged to participate.

There are three grade level bands at FMS. The sixth grade band rehearses in two halves on alternating days. The seventh and eighth grade bands rehearse as a whole.

The band program provides activities for interested students to develop musical skills and knowledge through learning to play a wind or percussion instrument. Students gain experience in performing as soloists and performances in a large group. Band also teaches the self-discipline necessary to work in a large group situation. The literature is selected for its ability to challenge, educate, and entertain. A variety of styles and genres are used such as classical, march, baroque, jazz, and contemporary. Students continue to expand their tonal, rhythm, and executive skills on their instruments that were started in the 4th grade. Students are required to develop a regular home practice routine to stimulate their progress and preparation of ensemble parts. Cooperative behavior is promoted at all times in the rehearsals. All students in band participate in at least two concerts during the school year. Other performance opportunities arise for students in recitals, festivals, field trips, and NYSSMA.

Band meets as a class every other day during normal school hours. Students are expected to store their instrument in the band room on the day they have band and/or a lesson before they go to their lockers. School House Lockers (outside classrooms) are not a safe place to store instruments during the school day. Since band meets on a specific day, it becomes very important to keep track of what day it is. Remember that the days alternate for every day at school.  When in doubt, bring your instrument anyway!

Rehearsal etiquette is very important to band rehearsals. There may be over 100 students in a band rehearsal at once. Since there are so many students, each student has the responsibility to show great self control. Talking out of turn, moving from your seat without permission or not following other school rules can be very disruptive. Rules for band are posted clearly in the band room for each student to refer to during rehearsals. These rules include no talking, no gum chewing, keeping hands to oneself and on one's own instrument. Suggestions for positive behavior include fully participating when it's time, and how to practice silently when the conductor is working with a small group momentarily.

Similar to Band, there are three grade level orchestras. The sixth grade orchestra rehearses in two halves on alternating days. The seventh and eighth grade orchestras rehearse as a whole.

The orchestra program consists of a string orchestra for each grade level. The string orchestras are comprised of violins, violas, cellos, and basses. Rehearsals are based upon music enrichment activities such as exploring the various styles of select string literature throughout the ages and expanding the students’ technical music skills. The 7th and 8th grade Symphonic Orchestras also rehearse once every two weeks. The Symphonic Orchestra includes select wind and percussion players from the bands in 7th and 8th grade. These groups combine for concerts in order to provide the performers with a richer orchestra experience. All string students perform in a minimum of three concerts throughout the year. Other performance opportunities arise for students in recitals, festivals, field trips, and NYSSMA.

Instrumental Lessons/Private Lessons
Weekly Instrumental Lessons are given to band and orchestra students. 

All band and orchestra students in grades 6-8 receive a small group music lesson once a week. The lesson is 40 minutes in length. The lesson meets on the same day each week but at a different time of the day. This means that a student will miss a particular class once every five or six weeks. On the morning of the student’s lesson, he/she picks up a lesson card in the rehearsal room (band/orchestra). The time of the lesson is on the card. The student takes the card and shows it to the teacher of the class he/she will miss. At this time, the student also gets the assignment and any materials. Students do not come to lessons if there is a unit test, field trip, assembly, etc. However, students need to arrange with their music teacher when to make up their missed lesson. Students are expected to keep a practice chart that must be signed by a parent or guardian. It is very helpful if the parent/guardian marks the lesson days on the home calendar. This will help to remind the student to bring his/her instrument and lesson materials. Students receive a grade for each lesson. Chronic lack of practice and/or absence from lessons may render the student incapable of performing sections of the performing group’s music. If necessary, the teacher may remove the student from rehearsals and assign the student to a supervised practice area during the rehearsal.

Below is a list of the materials each student should have in their practice room at home. Everyone should have lesson books, a music stand, and a pencil.

Woodwinds Brass Percussion Strings
At least 3 good reeds Valve oil / slide grease 1 Pair Sticks Rosin
Swab / Cleaning cloth Cleaning snake 1 Pair Mallets Cloth
  Tuning slide grease Percussion Kit Extra Strings


During the middle school years as students progress and mature, improvements and upgrades in equipment are recommended. Instrumental teachers will be glad to make specific recommendations for your child!

Consider the following as holidays and birthdays come up:

Advanced Mouthpiece (brass & ww), Upgraded ligature (woodwinds), Better quality reeds

Metronome, Instrument stand, Brass mutes

Better quality strings, Quality shoulder rest ,Yarn mallets (percussion), Timpani mallets (percussion)


Instrument Storage
Here are the rules and guidelines for where to store your instrument while in school and information about those school instruments like Tuba, Bassoon, and Bass Clarinet, just to name a few.

There is ample room in both the Band and Orchestra rooms for each student's instrument during the school day. On days that students bring their instrument to school, they should go directly to the Band or Orchestra room to store their instrument before going to their locker. Each student has his/her own storage area in the rehearsal room and the assignments are posted on the wall near to where they will store the instrument.

For easy identification purposes, the student’s name must be clearly visible on the instrument case. Students sometimes misplace their instrument and this provides us with a quick way of rejoining a lost instrument with its owner. Keep a record of the model number and serial number at home. In the event that your child may pick up the wrong instrument on the way out of school, this will provide you with a way of identifying the instrument should it be placed in the wrong case (many instruments can look alike from the same company). Check your homeowner’s policy for loss coverage. Farnsworth Middle School is not responsible for lost or stolen property.

Choral Music Program

For students who like to sing, chorus is a wonderful way to enrich their musical experience. Many different forms and styles are performed/rehearsed. There is one chorus for each grade level consisting of day chorus and activity chorus. The day chorus meets on alternate days for 40 minutes. Activity period chorus is for those band and orchestra students who wish to sing but cannot meet during the day. Activity period chorus meets once a week during activity period and each respective teacher will determine what day it will be. This information will be announced to all students in the fall.

All chorus students are expected to sing with proper executive, tonal, and rhythm skills. In addition, they should exhibit appropriate attitude, behavior, cooperation, and effort.

Executive Skills are practiced with emphasis on vowel formation and purity, breath, proper use of consonants, tone quality, intonation, and posture. Students are shown how these areas contribute to a musical, artistic performance.

Tonal Skills are practiced using Solfege syllables. These skills include: finding resting tones, easy to difficult major and minor tonal patterns, and ascending and descending major and minor scales. The practice of these skills enables students to sing independent parts successfully.

Rhythm Skills are practiced using rhythmic syllables. These skills include chanting and reading easy to difficult four and eight beat rhythm patterns. The practice of these skills enables the students to sing independent parts successfully.

Balance & Critical Listening: Students are frequently encouraged to critique themselves on their performance. It is important that they can recognize areas of strength and weakness because this ability indicates good listening skills and understanding of the musical concepts. Students are also reminded to listen to the other voice parts to ensure that all are heard equally for good choral balance.


All of the above skills are practiced and then applied to the choral music which prepares the students for a successful performance

Attendance Policy for Activity Period Chorus

Because Activity Period Chorus members have less than half the number of rehearsals that Day Chorus members have, the following policy is in effect: A student who misses one rehearsal prior to a concert will be able to participate in that concert. Any student who misses TWO or more rehearsals prior to a concert will need to make up those rehearsals in order to be able to participate in the concert. Students are given a weekly opportunity to view their attendance record. Students are responsible for contacting their teacher regarding missed rehearsals. Teachers will announce and post schedules of make-ups.

7th and 8th grade activity period chorus members are released from band and orchestra to attend a full rehearsal with day chorus members when there are 3 performing rehearsals in the week. Although Activity Period Chorus members do not receive a letter grade for their participation, they are held to the same expectations as day chorus members.

Music Selection

It is the responsibility of the Music Department to determine what music is selected for the curriculum, including public performances. Through the appropriate use of music, the instructional needs of all students may be met both in the classroom and public performance. Appropriate music may be used in conjunction with special seasons of the year and holidays. Music is never used in any way to promote any particular religion or its ideals. The appropriateness of a particular musical piece chosen by the teacher for classroom use and/or public performance is determined in relation to the District Philosophy of Music Education and Selection of Music. This document can be provided upon request.

Grading policy

 We want to ensure success and confidence in our students. To achieve this there is a need for a regular flow of information between the teacher, parent, and student. Grades are one means of communication. Sixth through eighth graders in band and orchestra receive letter grades on their report cards. A student’s grade in any performing group is a part of his/her academic program. The mark he/she earns is averaged in to determine placement on the Academic Achievement Roster.

This grade represents the following:

Grades in lessons (based on progress, performance, preparedness, and attendance)

Preparation in rehearsals and concerts

Overall effort and attitude

We believe that students who practice regularly, do their best, and have a positive attitude will always be successful in the middle school music program.

All middle school music students are expected to keep a weekly practice record. The parent is expected to sign this before each lesson. It is vital that the student practice regularly in order to develop his/her skills. A lack of regular practice causes students to fall behind and feel negative about their ability. A parent will be notified if their child continually lacks adequate practice or continually misses lessons.

Because the concert is a part of the student’s mark (similar to an exam), students who miss a concert will meet with the teacher to perform their part so the teacher can give a grade for that portion of the mark.

Grading policies from each teacher will be made available to students at the beginning of the year. 

Performance Evaluations. Each year, teachers evaluate students' performance progress. Each grade level is evaluated based on criteria designed for the specific level of experience.