The Lower School Music Program offers experiences with singing, instruments, movement, and collaborative creative projects.
Emphasis on fundamental musical concepts including rhythm, steady beat, solfege, dynamics, music literacy—all with the goal of joyous music creation, and setting the foundation for music experiences in the Middle and Upper School.
There is also the component of collaboration with classroom studies, and community experiences. Students partake in two weekly music classes, music assemblies, and formal and informal performances.
- After School Ensembles
- Community Events (Grandparents SF Day, Thanksgiving & Holiday Concerts
- All-grade performances (5th Grade May Day Faire, 3rd Grade African Market)
Private music lessons are available. (See "Private Instrumental Lessons.")
Middle School Choir is a place for middle school students who enjoy singing. In Choir, we sing together twice a week and are part of something unique that begins with many individuals and becomes one shared experience.
Song exists in every culture in the world and we celebrate that. We learn to use our voices in a healthy way and develop our musicianship, singing all different kinds of music. Singing is a living, breathing, ongoing practice passed down to us by our families, by religious communities, by schools, by teachers and by musicians and singers we admire. In the Middle School Choir, we sing and perform together to strengthen and expand our vocal possibilities and well as our ties to one another. We hope you will join us!
The Middle School Jazz Ensemble is open to all musicians and rehearses twice a week.
Students focus on performing jazz music as well as related styles. They explore improvisation, the history of jazz, ensemble balance, technique and chart reading skills. Students are encouraged to support their peers in their solo opportunities, which builds a sense of community within the ensemble.
Students in the jazz ensembles are required to take private lessons on their instrument in order to gain facility and adequate technique.
The group performs for the GFS community at various assemblies and concerts as well as at local school jazz festivals. The group also participates in GFS Jazz Night, which is the school’s annual celebration of jazz across all three divisions.
The Middle School Orchestra is a high-energy and focused ensemble that explores orchestral repertoire from the last five centuries.
With a focus on developing accurate intonation and more refined reading/interpretation skills, students cultivate their individual instrumental technique, enhanced reading and sight-reading skills, non-verbal communication, and leadership skills. All instruments are welcome in the Orchestra, and pianists double in the percussion section (as well as on the piano.)
Students are required to take private lessons on their instrument in order to gain an adequate technical facility.
The ensemble rehearses two periods a week, and performs at many daytime assemblies, night concerts, and the GFS Orchestral Concert in the spring (which features orchestras from all three divisions—Lower, Middle, and Upper).
All eighth grade students come together for a trimester to rehearse and prepare a musical revue. Students present their show to the GFS community right before spring break in March. There are opportunities for students to sing solo and/or ensemble numbers, dance, narrate, or work on set design/lighting/stage crew.
General Music Program
The Middle School general music program offers hands-on experiences that explore both instrumental and vocal music to build on students’ music literacy skills. A sampling of music class options in one semester might include:
Ukulele: This course is designed to teach the fundamentals of solo and ensemble musicianship by learning to play the ukulele. Students will study basic playing techniques and learn to accompany themselves while singing. We seek to build confident solo and ensemble musicians who can use their new skills to connect with others outside the walls of the classroom.
Keyboard Skills: This course is designed to teach students the fundamentals of the piano. Students will learn chord progressions and melodies from popular songs as well as how to read musical notation on the grand staff (treble and bass clef simultaneously) and in the fake book style (chords and melody on 1 line).
This class will explore improvisation and give students the opportunity to create their own chord progressions and melodies as well as collaborate together to write songs with their peers. By the end of this course, students will be proficient on the piano and be able to use their knowledge to play the chords and melodies to their favorite songs.
Music FUNdamentals: This class is designed to give students knowledge of music theory that can be applied to any instrument. Through various fun interactive games and activities (many with the use of xylophones and iPads), and ensemble playing and singing, students will gain experience with a variety of essential musical concepts, including pitch, rhythm, solfège, and intervals. This class will seek to develop a strong foundation for further music study and appreciation.
World Percussion: This is a community drumming class where students are able to get their hands moving on GFS’s diverse collection of world percussion instruments from Ghana, Brazil, Cuba, and the Mid-East. Students who were drumming in Lower School are able to continue, however, there is no prior experience needed.
Composition with NoteFlight: This class is designed to teach students how to compose their own music. With guided instruction and the use of NoteFlight, a web-based music software service, students will learn how to apply essential musical concepts, including pitch, rhythm, and intervals into new notation.
Throughout the semester, students will develop the music theory skills necessary for composition through various fun interactive games and activities. We will begin with basic exercises and gradually progress to more advanced lessons that allow students to compose new music and explore their musical creativity.
In addition to the required general music courses, students may also elect to participate in one of three Middle School Ensembles (Choir, Jazz, and Orchestra), which involve students in 6th-8th grades.
The sounds of music are alive and resounding in our Upper School Division.
The Upper School music program strives to provide our students with ample occasions to express and explore their musical talents. We are justifiably proud of our extensive range of voice and instrumental performance opportunities and the learning and growth that comes with each of these experiences. Explore the Upper School music courses.
Lessons are open to anyone in grades Kindergarten-12. (Piano and violin are offered as early as Kindergarten; other string instruments are offered in first or second grade, depending on student readiness; all other instruments are offered in third grade and older).
Private instrumental lessons occur once a week during or after school. In the Middle and Upper Schools, students can have a lesson scheduled during a regular class time. Their lesson day and time would remain constant (e.g., Tuesday 5th period) and not be affected by the 8-day rotating schedule. Students would miss a class for that period; impact on the individual classes is minimal (approximately 2 per semester); this new system allows for greater flexibility for the individual student. Students who wish not to be pulled from classes for concern of their academic needs can opt for a lunch or after-school lesson. Every effort is made to schedule everyone who would like to participate in the program. Lessons begin the first week of October.
The first semester runs from October-January, and the second semester February-May. A bill will be mailed home during each semester. Please submit payments in a timely manner to assure no lapse in lessons. Parents may pay in installments; please submit your desired payment plan with the first payment. Financial Aid requests must be put in writing and submitted with this form; all requests will be submitted to a committee for decisions.
In order to establish a solid basis both for students and teachers, families should understand that lessons are a year-long commitment. Please think carefully about overall scheduling before signing up. In cases of absence or class trips, teachers should be notified by families, and vice versa. Inquiries may be directed to Miku Shiota.
LESSON FEES (approximately 14 lessons per semester):
30-minute lessons: $35 per lesson
45-minute lessons: $52.50 per lesson
60-minute lessons: $70 per lesson
Instrument Rental Fee: $100 for the year
Our faculty members are all experienced teachers. They are also freelance professional musicians and bring to the program both teaching and performance expertise.
George Atanasiu – cello
Katy Avery – voice
Peter Delaplane – guitar
Beth Dzwil – violin, viola
Shawn Hennessey – World drums, drum set
Michael Loewy – piano
Dominic Panunto – bassoon
Jane Petersons – flute
Sam Schreiber – flute/clarinet/saxophone
Rebekah So – piano
Kate Suk – violin and viola
Andreia Torain – violin
Jeff Torchon – jazz piano
Daniel Wright – French horn, trumpet, baritone, trombone