For its connection to the spirit, for its intellectual challenge and for sheer enjoyment, music is integral to a Potomac education.
O ur students' musical journey begins in Lower School where students develop an understanding of rhythm, melody, dance, and song. Over time they discover the recorder, handbells, or strings. Opportunities to sing and perform include jazz and symphonic band, chorus, a cappella choral music, and chamber music. Our Madrigal Singers perform in U.S. venues and abroad. But our absolute joy is performing together at Potomac in small groups and large, for each other, and for our parents and teachers.
Upper School Music
Play a coffee house with a jazz combo, take a trio to a music festival, perform with a chamber group or the symphonic band--opportunities abound for our Upper School students. Curricular emphasis in all ensembles is creative expression. Students challenge themselves to bring new energy and artistic life to every performance.
US Concert Chorus
Potomac invites all Upper School students, without audition, to Concert Chorus. Singers receive daily training in vocal technique and music-reading as they learn choral masterpieces reflecting a variety of cultures and styles. Annual performances include the independent school choir festival at Washington National Cathedral, as well as a host of concerts at Potomac throughout the year.
US Madrigal Singers
Madrigal Singers separate from Concert Chorus twice a week to learn and perform a cappella choral music spanning five centuries and using texts from Catalan to German to Hebrew to Swahili. In addition to the many Potomac School concerts, these auditioned singers appear annually at an independent school chamber choir rally, provide choral music for the Washington National Cathedral and sing at a local arts festival. Annual Spring Break tours have included visits to a variety of American and European cities. The Madrigals have appeared at area venues such as the Kennedy Center, the National Gallery of Art and the White House.
The exquisite music experience that is the US Handbell Ensemble is the result of experienced ringers coming together as a unified group to master multiple ringing techniques and complex rhythms in seamless performance. Years of ringing together forge strong bonds among our musicians, who eagerly welcome the fresh energy of our new students. In addition to performing for school assemblies and seasonal concerts, the Handbell Ensemble participates in the WISH Festival, the area independent school handbell festival.
In Upper School strings students branch out into new settings. Students collaborate to play chamber music, learn to carefully follow direction in a string orchestra and experience the thrill of playing in a full orchestra with classmates from the band. Music from many cultures, eras, and genres comprises the US orchestra repertoire. String players perform at school assemblies and at division concerts. Practice and perseverance is required, but the work is especially rewarding when done with friends.
US Student Groups
US students come together in a number of a cappella singing groups. The groups include Magnificent Seven, Mixed Company, Notables, Quintessence, and Rhapsody.
For detailed information about the music curriculum in Upper School, please click here.
Intermediate School Music
IS Chorus members sing with increased confidence and control as they build a musical team. Students train daily in vocal warm-ups, sight-singing, and music literacy. Alternating Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and modern choral repertoire with multicultural folksongs and popular music, students add choreography and percussion to selected songs. Annual performances include the McLean Artfest, the Congressional Schools Choral Festival, and various School concerts and assemblies.
Building on the foundational skills they developed in Middle School, IS band students begin exploring higher level musical concepts and apply those concepts to challenging band literature. The literature itself is a learning experience as students rise to the difficulties as well as to the excitement of performing according to the composer's intent. Students challenge themselves to play with others stylistically and expressively. Students in the IS band perform at School concerts throughout the year and at local festivals in Fairfax County and along the east coast.
Seventh grade students learn much from their eighth grade mentors, while older students practice and solidify their musical skills in this two-year program. Strong bonds are developed as students come together as a complete musical ensemble. All are challenged when they perform in the Washington Independent Schools Handbell (WISH) Festival, an annual event bringing together groups from schools in the metro area. The participating schools combine en masse during the performance to create a truly extraordinary event for the students.
Higher, faster, louder, better - Intermediate School string players enjoy the rewards of their earlier practice when they begin playing as a true string orchestra, tackling more challenging and rewarding music each semester. This is the time when students learn the skills that will take them from beginners to musicians who can evoke emotions and play in different styles depending on the era of the music. Intermediate School students play in all-school assemblies with their Upper School counterparts as well as in division concerts.
Middle School Music
Students continue their musical journey with the Orff-Schulwerk-based curriculum, which uses poems, rhymes, games, songs and dances to help children hear and make music. Improvisation and composition follow. This process of creative discovery works with all levels of learning. Ultimately process is more important than performance, but we share our musical achievements at weekly assemblies, at class plays, and in large community gatherings.
Band, Bells and Strings
The first weeks of fifth grade band are filled with enthusiasm and excitement as students learn the basic mechanics of their new instruments. By the end of the year students have experienced a variety of musical styles – in small and large groups and even as soloists – while always working to improve the fundamentals that will serve as the foundation of their musical lives. Rehearsal serves as a fun, safe, and exciting place for students to share their progress, make mistakes, and get better playing with each other.
The handbell ensemble presents a unique opportunity to experience and learn the musical foundations of rhythm, melody, and harmony. Handbells are tuned percussion instruments, which provide both rhythm and melody/harmony simultaneously within a song. As the students begin to learn these musical concepts, they also begin to understand their individual roles in the ensemble. In sixth grade, students play more challenging repertoire and have increased performance opportunities. Students become aware of the musical tapestry they are creating together and they learn to rely more upon one another to create even more beautiful music. The appreciation of teamwork and the bonds that develop spread far beyond the confines of the handbell ensemble.
From the first day they select their instruments, string players in Middle School experience the joy of making music with friends. Classes are devoted to learning the basics of position and tone production, playing together with others and establishing good practice habits. At assemblies, May Day and a Spring concert, students play unison pieces, rounds or elementary string orchestra literature, working together to make good music.
Lower School Music
Our youngest students engage in and explore music through the Orff-Schulwerk philosophy of music education. For example, we might begin with a simple phrase that is chanted to establish a rhythmic beat. We might then add body percussion for the kinesthetic experience, sing a melody, create a dance and play on a barred instrument. This process of creating music is the essence of our curriculum and becomes a wonderful performance experience that we share with the Potomac community at weekly Friday gatherings and at larger special holiday assemblies. Process, not product, is our focus.
LS Music Teacher
MS Music Teacher
Associate Band Director
Director of Bands