From the solemn beauty of the annual Christmas Pageant, to the gusto of the fall musical and the spring talent show, you might say that St. James’ is alive with the sound of music. Every year abounds with performances that bring us together as a community. Students build a solid foundation of musical understanding in music class and hone their skills in the St. James–Colburn School Band and in the St. James’ Children’s Choir.
Music plays an important role in life at St. James’ Episcopal School, both in the classroom and in chapel. From Kindergarten onward, every child receives two, half-hour lessons in music per week, incorporating a methodology based on educational principles developed by the Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály. In keeping with this methodology, the goal of the music curriculum at St. James’ is to lead students to read, write, and improvise music with a level of proficiency comparable to that with which they read and write their own language. Activities include singing, listening, and moving in all grades, and reading, writing, and improvising in 1st through 6th grades.
The Kindergarten year is devoted to establishing readiness for music literacy. Students develop a deep connection to music through singing, and their voice serves as their primary instrument. Students build solid base of musical tools, including a song repertoire, basic musical vocabulary, and symbols for representing music visually. They also develop kinesthetic awareness and social skills through activities that incorporate dance and movement.
Beginning in 1st grade, students begin to learn the basic components of written music notation. As they listen, perform, and move to music, students discover for themselves the connections between what they hear and how to represent it visually. The introduction of standard musical symbols serves as a foundation for building music literacy, which students pursue with increasing rigor as they grow through grade levels. At every level, students employ critical thinking skills to solve problems and have the opportunity to demonstrate their mastery of musical concepts through improvisation.
Extracurricular activities offer students opportunities to explore further their musical interests. Choir is open to all students in 3rd through 6th grades, and the auditioned Handbell Choir is open annually to a limited number of students in 6th grade. Students interested in learning to play an instrument can participate in the St. James’–Colburn School Band. Second- and third-year band members can take advantage of additional training in the afternoons.