Music classes in Barrie Montessori are based on the Orff-Schulwerk approach to music education, in which teacher and students interact as partners in music-making. Singing, moving, dancing and playing instruments are treated as regular ensemble experiences. The Orff-Schulwerk approach to music education was carefully chosen in order to closely reflect the type of hands-on learning practices in the Montessori classrooms and Barrie School as a whole. The Orff-Schulwerk allows for active music-making for all age-groups and abilities, along with an historical and theoretical music education. Following the example of 20th Century composer Carl Orff, this approach builds musicianship through the integration of music, movement, speech, and drama. It complements the Montessori curriculum because the students begin their music lessons with what they do naturally: play, imitate, experiment, problem-solve and express themselves in a natural way. Actual skills for each age are benchmarked against the National Standards of Music Education in America, which were created with the input of leading teachers of the Orff-Schulwerk.
An Orff-Schulwerk program is naturally influenced by the background and interests of both student and teacher. At Barrie, the source material for the music classes comes primarily from world and art music, and from the folk music of the cultures represented by the students themselves. There is also a strong emphasis on North American folk music, anchoring students to the rich musical heritage of the country in which they live. Xylophones, glockenspiels, drums of all types, simple stringed instruments, woodwinds (all voices of recorders, Native American-style flutes) and unpitched percussion instruments, both symphonic and ethnic in nature, are used to enhance the classroom World Music experience, which supports the cultural studies that are so important in the Montessori classroom. Such studies are further supported with listening lessons/movement opportunities using symphonic, vocal, jazz, and ethnic recordings.
Throughout Barrie Montessori, vocal and instrumental music, along with movement and dance, are combined with dramatic elements in order for the students to see the music as an expression of the human experience. Students from the Primary Division through 5th grade experience making music as part of story-telling. In Primary classes, students act out seasonal songs and classic children’s tales, choosing their level of involvement as musicians, singers and actors. These lessons are spontaneous in nature and ‘performed’ inside their own music room in order to allow every student an emotionally safe place to experiment. Elementary students continue to engage in the emotional and dramatic elements of their weekly music-making in a similar fashion. In the spring semester, the students produce a full ‘theatrical and musical’ performance of an authentic folk-tale inspired by the country and/or continent from that year’s Montessori curriculum, using authentic songs, music and dances to enhance the story. All pieces chosen have relevance to the music curriculum of each grade level.
Students have music two-three times per week in the following schedule:
- Toddlers have one class per week.
- Primary students have one class per week.
- Kindergarten students have one class per week and one Kindergarten Choir rehearsal.
- Lower Elementary students have two classes per week and the option to sing in the LE Choir for an additional class each week.
- Upper Elementary students have three classes per week: Two are general music classes, and one is a rehearsal class in either the UE Chorus or an UE Ensemble.