K-8 Performing Arts
Developed and Implemented by GRAMMY® Award-winner, Chief Ayanda Clarke of THE FADARA GROUP, WNS Percussion Programs for Grades 3-5 provide instrumental music instruction that embraces a multi-cultural, inclusive philosophy and draws on the diversity of percussive arts traditions from West and Central Africa, and the African Diaspora. Each of the programs contain specific traditional musical elements and songs that are reinforced with cultural context and history. The programs intentionally center rhythmic retention and memorization techniques consistent with a traditional learning approach, but does underscore the correlation to basic Western rhythmic notation as well. Intended as a cohesive course of study, the programs build in complexity while offering entry points to new students at each grade level.
Grade 3 - Introduction to Djembe Workshop
The Grade 3 Introduction to Djembe Workshop is designed around the West African djembe, and uniquely utilizes aspects of traditional djembe instruction while drawing from the instrument’s classical Mande folk music aesthetic.
Third graders begin their journey with an exploration of the mechanics of the instrument. Through hands-on examination, the students learn the components of the djembe, and learn how the djembe is constructed. They work on building the physical strength and dexterity employed in maintaining appropriate posture and position for playing their djembes.
With a focus on the djembe as a musical instrument, the student drummers explore the basic sound possibilities of the djembe and the techniques employed to produce those sounds. Simultaneously, the students will grasp the foundation of ensemble playing. Teamwork, musical sensitivity, and listening skills are stressed while creativity, problem-solving and accountability are encouraged.
These skills and experiences form the strong foundation necessary for the focused performance preparation in the next phases of our workshops.
Grade 4 - Mande Percussion Ensemble
The Grade 4 Mande Percussion Ensemble program begins with a review of hand percussion techniques using djembe and quickly adds stick-drumming skills through an introduction to the family of Mande bass drums and log drums. Students begin to explore the concept of polyrhythm, as they develop their ability to maintain traditional Malinke rhythms and arrangements. Through these explorations and exercises, ensemble members enhance teamwork, individuality, musical confidence, sensitivity and listening skills. Performance skills are certainly a focus for this year.
Grade 5 - Percussion Performance Ensemble
The Grade 5 Percussion Performance Ensemble introduces a unique blend of traditional and contemporary percussion styles from the African Diaspora. Building upon the performance skills previously developed in our courses, more complex arrangements are learned and varied instrumentation is employed. The introduction of hand drumming techniques expressed on the Conga drum leads to a more comprehensive exploration of Afro-Caribbean rhythmic styles and traditions. Drawing on contemporary percussion styles, stick technique and dexterity is reinforced with the introduction of bucket drumming. Students will also learn to incorporate melodic lines using xylophones and marimbas.
Lower School Music
The curriculum and lessons are broken down into two main areas of studies (General Performing Arts and Music Focus), and will explore the many branches and far reaches of these two artistic topics. Students will learn to comprehend basic and advanced music theory; learn to sight-read music; will begin to recite and perform drama; dissect scripts; creatively think and develop dramatic narratives; write/create scripts.
In kindergarten, the main goal is to help students build and grow their natural love and appreciation for music. Students learn a lot of thematic music – songs about different seasons, holidays, songs that correspond with their lessons in their other classes, etc. Kindergarten students also learn a lot of movement and dance to really get music lessons into their bodies and muscle memories. With this movement and uninhibited expression, students learn to build their vocal and physical confidence and begin to develop a real personal relationship with music. As well, they come to understand music as communal, through the process of learning, creating, and performing music as a group.
In first grade, students continue to build their love and appreciation for music through group engagement and personal exploration. Moreover, in first grade, students expand on the music and movement exercises they’ve learned in their previous year, and begin more difficult and complex lessons. For example, first graders learn basic music vocabulary (crescendo, decrescendo, staccato, legato, vibrato, etc). The students will explore the science of sound through neat and unique music-based STEAM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Arts-Math) projects. To strengthen and collaborate with their literacy studies, first graders are taught to use music as a literacy tool – to help with pronunciation, diction, spelling, reading, writing, memorization. Through cultural and musical history studies, by year’s end, first graders come to understand the universality of music – that it transcends borders, and also that it weaves its way throughout all facets of life.
Second Graders dive deeper into musical vocabulary and we work on beginner’s music theory. To prepare them for their upcoming drumming classes in 3rd and 4th grade, the second graders will learn basic rhythms and musical notations. They will be able to identify beats and notes types (in basic 4/4 time) – whole, half, quarter, and eighth notes. Second graders will also learn to identify notes by their letter names in the treble clef. Second graders’ curriculum includes more in-depth instrumental exploration, again preparing them for drumming and then guitar studies in future WNS years. Second graders continue lessons and projects about the cultural importance and universality of music with topics like composers, different music genres, musical instruments, music in sports, music in holidays, music in hard social times, music to heal, etc.
1st Year Guitar
Scope: First-year guitar study at WNS introduces students to the notes and chords of the first position, the fundamentals of reading pitch and rhythm, strum patterns and “rhythm guitar,” basic riffs, and ensemble playing in classical and contemporary styles. Music notation, TAB, and chord synopsis are all introduced.
Repertoire: Repertoire takes great advantage of the guitar’s versatility despite being a first-year course. Folk songs, classical, rock, blues, pop, and world music are all featured. The main categories of repertoire generally follow the: melodic (the “singable” part of a song), the harmonic (usually open chords strummed in a rhythmic style), riffs (highly repetitive and rhythmic rock or classic soundtrack themes), and counterpoint (playing 2 or more parts in ensemble in a classical or baroque style), culminating in a spring concert showcasing 4 or 5 pieces.
Technique: Students begin by establishing correct posture and hand placement. The right hand is the second area of focus, playing open strings with a “rest stroke.” Pick styles and free strokes are demonstrated for optional later use. Then, left hand technique is introduced, habituating fingertip placement, as well as the “sweet spot” of the fret. 3-string chords introduce the harmonic element, as well as basic down strumming with the thumb or pick. Scale fragments and tremolos are habituated as warmups in the first quarter. In the 2nd quarter, percussive strumming and down-up strums are learned. In the 3rd and 4th quarters, students will have learned several pieces in the “first” or “open” position of the guitar on most, if not all strings, and will have memorized around 10 chord forms in the first position. The later part of the year also includes extensive practice with rhythmic strumming as accompaniment, and playing in ensemble counterpoint.
Music Notation: As a first year course, the class starts with the fundamentals of music notation, including pitch, rhythm, clef, and meter. The guitar is a treble clef instrument and this notation accounts for the majority of reading during 7th Grade. However, the guitar has historically heavily utilized tablature (graphic numeric fret and string designations), as well as chord synopsis (learning chord names and reading charts with these designations, usually with strum rhythms indicated, and no “notes”). The benefits to all 3 systems are clear and relevant to the beginning player, and are regularly utilized during the year.
Additional: During the second semester, the ability to play in ensemble—meaning in a rhythmically cohesive way with others—is paramount to ensuring an enjoyable classroom experience for all students, preparing a satisfying final concert, and ensuring success and enjoyment in future study.
2nd Year Guitar
Scope: Second-year guitar study at WNS gives students the opportunity to hone the skills they worked so hard for as beginners the year before. With the details of posture and basic technique established, they enjoy more rapidly learning new styles and selections. Strumming rhythm guitar, completing the notes of the first position, and enjoying more multi-part ensemble playing are all featured.
Repertoire: The repertoire is similarly diverse in that it includes many contemporary and classic styles. However, rhythmic complexity grows, particularly in the pop selections, and more intricate counterpoint is employed in the classical ensemble pieces, further strengthening ensemble abilities. Very basic bass/melody solo playing is introduced.
Technique: The techniques of the first year, notably the rest stroke and strum, grow to include pick technique and the free stroke—particularly in basic solo classical guitar and fingerstyle folk progressions. In this year, consistent review and repetition of old and new techniques are essential.
Note Reading: Note recognition, formerly limited to the first 4 strings, will now include the entirety of the 1st position, and reading unsyncopated 8th and 16th note rhythm is incorporated. As was the case the year before, the students are learning the value of their individual work to creating a cohesive musical dynamic with their classmates, though the introduction of solo work also means they can also enjoy the satisfaction of playing complete pieces by themselves.
3rd Year Guitar
Scope: Where 1st year study covers the fundamentals, and 2nd year study reinforces and reviews the fundamentals, 3rd year study pivots into new territory in several ways. Students are expected to master a wider variety of techniques in both fingerstyle and flatpicking styles, upper position playing, leads, and improvisation . Solo guitar takes on added importance, with arrangements handling harmony and melody together. Rhythm guitar parts and riffs will include increased syncopation, rhythmic difficulty, and slurring. Upper position playing is introduced, including movable scales and barre chords. Mastery becomes a more recurring theme, with students learning to play from memory, preparing pieces with limited time, and recalling notes and chord shapes more readily. “Real parts” are added to reflect professional parts of familiar songs with greater detail.
Repertoire: Among the key differences in the 8th Grade is the move to more “solo” repertoire as students delve into the early Classical literature for the guitar. Very satisfying on its own and not requiring the classroom ensemble, this music builds musicianship and confidence. Correspondingly, the ensemble repertoire becomes more involved with a greater number of parts and added complexity. Increasingly, the student is urged to take on more projects to her liking, and the exploration of personal tastes is encouraged alongside the standard repertoire. Styles remain broad: rock, classical, folk, blues, bluegrass, and acoustic styles are utilized.
Technique: As noted earlier, the demands of the 3rd-year course move from the reinforcement of fundamentals to new techniques. The frequent use of “pima” or arpeggiated right-hand fingerings is a major component, while the left hand emphasis moves up the fretboard for upper position melodies and occasionally chords. Flatpicking requirements become more challenging, as well, in order to better handle contemporary styles.
Music Notation: These requirements remain somewhat similar in that the students continue to read in treble clef, tablature, and chord synopsis. The differences, however, reflect learning new key signatures, positions, and a broader chord palette.