Our students' musical journey begins in Lower and Middle School, where every learner builds musicianship through the Orff-Schulwerk approach of singing, movement, speech, drama, playing a variety of musical instruments, and improvising and composing frequently.
Throughout students' time at Potomac, there are plenty of opportunities for enthusiastic performers and ensembles to perform for others, including in divisional and all-school assemblies, in chamber music settings, in Jazz Band, and even in venues around the country or abroad. Indeed, our department's biggest joy is helping students perform together, in small groups and large, for each other, for our friends, and for our parents and teachers.
The Lower School Music Program is built upon the Orff-Schulwerk approach, which uses speech, singing, movement, and barred instruments to discover and develop the innate musicianship of children. Through imitation, improvisation, and composition, students experience a variety of musical styles and genres during their time in Lower School Music. The joyful process of creating and making music is our focus.
Materials and inspiration are drawn from folk songs and music from a variety of cultures, as well as traditional nursery rhymes and games. Beginning in third grade, students participate in chorus and learn to play the recorder. All students have the opportunity to sing together and share what they are learning at weekly Friday assemblies with their classes. They also perform at special all-division assemblies throughout the year, including the Folk Dance Assembly, Halloween Assembly, Lower School Carols, and the Grandparents Day Assembly.
In Middle School General Music, students continue their musical journey through the Orff Schulwerk approach. Students hone their skills on the recorder, drums, and barred instruments they began learning in Lower School, and also learn to play 'ukulele and learn to use music production software as well.
We believe that "process is more important than performance," and encourage students to take artistic and creative risks in their work; we do, however, also take many opportunities to share students' musical achievements during community gatherings, traditional large-scale divisional assemblies, and frequent smaller-scale assemblies and class plays.
Here, we emphasize musical literacy through performance while learning the fundamentals of music, including basic music theory, while singing or playing an instrument. The Intermediate School band program continues to develop the music literacy and musicianship of its members. Intermediate School Chorus focuses on developing reading, aural, vocal, and ensemble skills that will enable its members to perform anthems in 3 or 4 parts for changing voices.
The handbell ensemble strives to first development students’ proper motor skills and basic rhythms, and then turns to a focus on the concepts of complex melody, harmony, and rhythms. Finally, Intermediate School String Orchestra members learn the techniques required to play string orchestra music from many musical periods and in varied styles. Performance repertoire includes symphony orchestra classics arranged for string orchestra, classical pieces originally written for strings, and contemporary string compositions. Multiple performance opportunities occur throughout the year, both on campus and off.
In Band, our curricular emphasis in all ensembles is creative expression. Students challenge themselves to bring new energy and artistic life to each and every performance whether they are playing a jazz combo at a coffeehouse, taking a trio to a music festival, or performing with a chamber group. In Concert Chorus – which is open to all Upper School students – singers receive daily training in vocal technique and reading music as they learn choral masterpieces reflecting a variety of cultures and styles. Additionally, Potomac's Madrigal Singers have appeared at area venues such as the Kennedy Center, the National Gallery of Art, and the White House, We also boast a number of a cappella student singing groups.
Our US Handbell program is the result of experienced ringers coming together as a unified group to perfect multiple ringing techniques and complex rhythms in seamless performance. In our strings program, 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.