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Vocal Music

The goal of the vocal music program is to instill a love of music in every child, develop the innate musicality of every child and foster music literacy.

Singing is the primary foundation of the child’s musical development. Just as children learn language by hearing and imitating speech, they learn to match pitch and sing in tune in the music classroom. This develops the musical ear, fosters artistry, creates a sense of community and is the springboard for teaching musical reading and writing. This training then prepares these musicians for their instrumental lessons in fourth and fifth grade with Mr. Thomas, our instrumental teacher.

In every class, children sing a wonderful, diverse repertoire of authentic folk songs and composed music. As the children are singing, they are joyfully engaged in the music making process by moving, creating, performing, improvising or listening to art music as well as reading and writing. These concepts are just a few of the many activities artfully woven through each music lesson. The children have vocal music class twice a week for 30 minutes.

In grades four and five, children are encouraged to participate in the choir, band and orchestra. Each group rehearses before school and performs a winter and spring concert. It is a wonderful opportunity for the children to further develop their musical skills and experience the joy of performing in a large group.

Our fourth grade choir rehearses on Tuesday mornings and our fifth grade choir rehearses on Thursday mornings. Both rehearsals begin at 7:45 in the music room. As the concert date approaches, both groups join and rehearse together. Changes to rehearsal schedule will be noted in the Duffy dateline.

There are many ways to reinforce what your child is learning in music class. Listen to many different styles of music, attend concerts or encourage your child to share a song, folk dance, composer, singing game or concept that we are working on in class.  Help their music education come alive in your homes!


Philosophical Overview The West Hartford Public Schools nurtures every student’s ability to perform, create and respond to music of diverse cultures and historic periods. Music is a key component in the development of the whole person and is a universal expression of the human spirit. A life-long involvement with music enables the student to grow emotionally, intellectually and socially.

Importance of Music to Education Music is an integral part of a child’s education. Skills learned through music reinforce and improve learning in many subject areas, such as reading, math, language, visual art, and physical education.

In recent years much brain research has been undertaken to define the positive effects of music education. The noted Harvard professor, Howard Gardner, identifies music intelligence as one of the eight styles of learning for students. Other researchers have uncovered some significant results, such as:

• Primary Students who learn to read music while learning to read language achieve more positive results in their reading development. - R. Cutietta, University of Arizona

• First and second graders who received sequenced singing and art lessons perform better in math and reading than students who received standard arts instruction. -M. Gardiner, A. Fox, Brown University and Providence Music School

• Disadvantaged preschoolers display dramatic improvements in spatial reasoning ability after music training. Spatial IQ is crucial for higher brain functions such as complex mathematics. G. Shaw: “Early music training can enhance a child’s ability to reason.” -F. Rauscher, G. Shaw, University of California

• Students with coursework/experience in arts instruction scored 51 points higher on the verbal portion of the SAT and 39 points higher on the math portion of the SAT than students with no coursework or experience in the arts. -Profiles from the College Board, 1995

Vocal Music

Development of Musical Skills

Singing is the foundation of all music skills in the elementary vocal music curriculum. Using grade appropriate songs, singing games and rounds, music skills are sequentially taught and divided into five content areas:


• Students learn to sing grade appropriate songs in tune.

• Simple note patterns are extracted from song material such as “sol” and “mi”. These melody notes are called solfa (do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do).

• The melodic patterns become more complex in each grade level.


• Performing with a steady beat is essential in developing rhythmic skills.

• Initially, children will sing and clap simple rhythmic patterns, using quarter & eighth notes which are referred to as “ta” and “ti-ti.”

• The rhythmic patterns become more complex in each grade level.

Reading & Writing

• Reading and writing involve responding to rhythmic and melodic notation.

• Students demonstrate reading skills by decoding and performing written rhythms and melodies.

• Writing skills include rhythms and placing notes on the music staff

Part Work

• In grades K-5, students combine singing with a rhythmic or melodic accompaniment.

• In grades 3-5, students progress to singing 2-3 part songs in large and small group settings.


• Form is the organization of musical patterns.

• Students first recognize the phrases and then learn how they are organized.