Students learn “music manners” where they sit up tall and participate with good manners and consideration for their peers. Children learn to give their individual best in learning new songs and blending together as a group. We share many stories about composers and musical subjects. Kindergarteners learn to perform by singing for parent/class gatherings.
Students continue to sing songs of American and world cultures. They hear many interesting stories about composers, while they simultaneously color or draw pictures and listen to the music written by the composers. Children learn all about different “families” of instruments, and what they look and sound like. Students in 1st Grade are already getting a strong start in their musical education with beginning music theory (reading and writing music) and learning to play recorders. It is amazing to see a large group of first Grade students focused as if they are one instrument — starting, playing, and stopping together while performing songs they have learned on their recorders. Students sing and perform on their recorders for parents during special occasions.
2nd & 3rd Grade
Students continue to sing, study music theory, and learn about many more composers on a deeper level. Students read and count and clap rhythms; learn about different musical styles; and play and read more challenging music on their recorders (playing 2–3 different parts simultaneously and pieces with varied key and time signatures). Children are now playing pieces on their recorders by composers they are studying. Example: Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” theme, Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” folk tunes like Irish jigs, etc.
We have “in class” recitals for each other where children can sing a song or play a piece (on any instrument they are studying at school, or privately at home) for their classmates. Sometimes students will “make up” their own pieces or variations on a piece and perform them, or even orchestrate a song or performance with a group of their friends. Often the children surprise each other with their skills and inspire their classmates to study an instrument. Students are already cultivating a deep love for music at this age.
Near the end of 3rd Grade, students are allowed to try out each band instrument (clarinet, saxophone, flute, trumpet, trombone, baritone, and drums/percussion). Occasionally we have had piano, guitr, bass, or oboe in the band if the student has strong enough skills to manage it at their age. Once the child/family has chosen an instrument, we see if the school can provide that instrument — or if not, how to rent or obtain one. We try our best to match the child to an instrument that works for them, and sometimes have to change instruments to make the best fit.
4th and 5th Grade Band/Music
Band students in 4th and 5th Grade have been trained for “band readiness” since their first day of school.
Students entering 4th Grade have already chosen a band instrument, and we try to get them started over the summer to develop some skills before walking into their first band class in August. Ms. Johanna works with students and their parents to help the child learn skills on
- putting their instrument together;
- placing and using reeds properly;
- instrument care;
- reading and playing first few notes particular to their instrument; and
- practicing, etc.
When students can confidently play some on their instrument, they have a much better experience playing together as a band.
When students have mastered some basic skills of playing their instruments — and together as a band — they begin playing music they love and relate to. Ms. Johanna has worked very hard to listen to students express what music excites them, and then she orchestrates those songs/pieces into arrangements the band can play. Some examples of popular songs the band has played: Viva la Vida, Uptown Funk, Pirates of the Caribbean, Fireworks, Royals, Thrift Shop, All About That Bass, Batman, Timmy Trumpet, Hard Rock Blues, Iron Man, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, a whole cache of Mariachi songs, and more. The band either plays as a full group, or sometimes small ensembles, quartets, etc. We have even had a rock group form this year!
Expressions’ Band students typically perform 2–3 school concerts per year, visit and perform for other elementary or charter schools, and play concerts for the community. Example of community concerts either as a full band or small group(s): downtown Friday Night Art Walk, Farmer’s Markets, in front of Publix Saturday mornings, Luckys, Art Gallery openings, many different local restaurants, the Oaks Mall, Cinco de Mayo at Mexican restaurants, The Atrium retirement home, etc.
Ms. Johanna has endeavored to help all her band students reach a level of competence to play music they love, cohesively together. Ms. Johanna brings out the strengths of each student, improves the weaknesses with individual or sectional guidance, and improves each student’s skills to a similar level.
Many of Expressions’ band students are welcomed into middle school performing arts programs and into concert/symphonic bands in 6th Grade, when most students are just beginning to play a band instrument. Our students have shined as leaders, and many have gone on to achieve success getting selected into Alachua County honor bands, Alachua County Youth Orchestra, and Florida All-State bands. Some of our students have gone into college bands, the University of Florida clarinet choir, or created their own musical groups.
We are very proud of our band students, and they in turn have great memories and are proud of us!