Assuming the new role of N-12 Music Program Coordinator, Timothy Ho aims to implement a more cohesive, improved music curriculum at the school, in hopes of enhancing the musical education of students across all divisions.
Before this year, there was nobody to coordinate the music curriculum and keep it consistent, he said.
In the Lower Division (LD), the students tend to learn more about music history instead of how to read music and sing, which creates a stark contrast moving into the middle school, Logan Scharlatt (6) said.
“We know what a second grader should be learning in English, we know what an 11th grader should be doing in history, but what does a fourth grader do in music?” Ho said.
Just like with other academic subjects, there are national standards for what music concepts students should know by certain grade levels set by state organizations that most schools follow.
“If the school is going to be a competitive school on every front including music, we really need to have a thought out curriculum and figure out what our teachers are doing or not doing that are in line with the national standard,” Ho said.
The immediate plan is to assess all of the teaching abilities and skills of the faculty and then use their skills to craft a comprehensive music program that adheres to the national standards of teaching, he said.
“Right now, there is some room to improve,” Ho said.
According to Valentina Perez-Merlo (6), the way that the LD teaches music isn’t as exciting as the Middle Division (MD) methods of teaching, which deters people from taking music classes.
Even though Nic Moreira (10) believes that the LD prepared him for his music classes in the MD, having instruments embedded into the curriculum would have made the transition smoother because of the array of instruments used in the Middle and Upper schools, he said.
LD music teacher Cheryl Martin has spoken with Ho about their shared desire to build a LD curriculum which will prepare students for the challenges of MD classes and ensembles, Martin said.
“All of [the teaching styles] are great, but we don’t have one single system,” Ho said.
With the objective of refining the program, Ho hopes to have all the large changes implemented by the time that the New York Association of Independent Schools (NYAIS) assesses the school next year. Every few years, independent schools that belong to the NYAIS have to write a report presenting the school’s educational standards and curriculum, including those of the Music Department, Ho said.
Knowing that the school is assessed and given feedback by a national organization every few years helps the Music Department understand where it is in its own evolution, he said. Having a date during which the school presents itself allows for a time of reflection and rethinking, he said.
“It is meant to be a mirror to what we are doing,” Ho said.
Ho said that his goal is to ensure that the school’s Music Department aligns with the national standards by the time of the accreditation.
“What has happened is we have a really big, robust middle school and high school music program, and I would love to see that extend all the way through,” Ho said.
For instrumental ensembles, having a sense of continuity for the kids, so that the kids are prepared for what is coming up, makes the program stronger everywhere, UD and MD Music Teacher Nathan Hetherington said.
The ultimate goal is to raise the level [of material in] the Music Department and to give students a better music education, Ho said.
“The stronger the fundamentals you get when you are a young instrumentalist, the more confidence you are going to get when you are older and the music is more complicated,” Hetherington said.
“I am very excited with the idea of continuing to work with Lower and Nursery now that we know this is set, to continue to grow their program,” Ho said.