Music is integral to a Potomac education – for its connection to the spirit, for its intellectual challenge, and for sheer enjoyment.
O ur students' musical journey begins in Lower School, where they develop an understanding of rhythm, melody, dance, and song. Over time, they learn to make music with the recorder, handbells, and strings. Throughout students' time at Potomac, there are plenty of opportunities to sing and perform, including jazz and symphonic band, chorus, a cappella choral groups, and chamber music. Our renowned Madrigal Singers perform in U.S. venues and abroad. But the department's biggest joy is performing together at Potomac in small groups and large, for each other, for our friends, and for our parents and teachers.
Upper School Music
Play a jazz combo at a coffeehouse, take a trio to a music festival, perform with a chamber group, be part of our symphonic band – opportunities abound for Upper School students. Our curricular emphasis in all ensembles is creative expression. Students challenge themselves to bring new energy and artistic life to each and every performance.
US Concert Chorus
Potomac invites all Upper School students, without audition, to join Concert Chorus. Singers receive daily training in vocal technique and reading music as they learn choral masterpieces reflecting a variety of cultures and styles. Annual performances include the Independent Schools Choral Festival at Washington National Cathedral, as well as a host of concerts at Potomac throughout the year.
US Madrigal Singers
The Madrigal Singers branch off from Concert Chorus twice a week to learn and perform a cappella choral music spanning five centuries, in languages ranging from Catalan to German to Hebrew to Swahili. In addition to Potomac School concerts, these auditioned singers appear annually at an independent school chamber choir rally, provide choral music for 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 also 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 WISH, the area's 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, 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. These groups include the Magnificent Seven, Mixed Company, the Notables, Quintessence, and Rhapsody.
For more detailed information about the music curriculum in Upper School, please click here.
Intermediate School Music
IS Chorus members build a musical team together as they sing with increased confidence and control. Students train daily with vocal warm-ups, sight-singing, and music literacy. We alternate Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and modern choral pieces with multicultural folksongs and popular music, and students often add choreography and percussion to selected songs. Our 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 challenges of performing according to the composer's intent. Throughout the year, students combine musical forces both stylistically and expressively. They perform at school concerts throughout the year and at local festivals in Fairfax County and along the East Coast.
In this two-year program, our seventh grade students learn a lot from their eighth grade mentors, while our eighth graders practice and solidify their musical skills. 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 to create a truly extraordinary event for the students.
Higher, faster, louder, better – Intermediate School string players enjoy the rewards of their earlier practice while 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 beginning musicians to experts 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 understand and make music. Lessons in improvisation and composition follow. This process of creative discovery works with all levels of learning. Ultimately, we believe process is more important than performance, but we also take opportunities to share our musical achievements during class plays, weekly assemblies, 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 foundations of their musical lives. Rehearsal serves as a fun, safe, and exciting place for students to share their progress, make mistakes, and get better at playing with each other.
The handbell ensemble presents a unique opportunity to learn the musical foundations of rhythm, melody, and harmony. Handbells are tuned percussion instruments that provide rhythm, melody, and harmony within a song. As students begin to learn these musical concepts, they also begin to understand their individual roles in the ensemble. In sixth grade, students play a more challenging repertoire and have increased performance opportunities. Students become aware of the musical tapestry they are creating together and learn to rely upon one another to create music that is even more beautiful than before. This 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 with others, and establishing good practice habits. At assemblies, May Day, and a spring concert, students play unison pieces, rounds, or elementary string orchestra pieces, 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, or play on a barred instrument. This process of creating music is the essence of our curriculum and becomes a wonderful performance that we share with the Potomac community at weekly Friday gatherings and at larger holiday assemblies. Process, not product, is our focus.
LS Music Teacher
MS Music Teacher
Associate Band Director
Director of Bands