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Taking Note of Musical Innovation at Browne Academy

Browne Academy has a long-standing, robust music program that offers music class for all students in preschool-8th grade, as well as extracurricular opportunities, such as handbells, instrumental ensembles, a middle school musical, and choirs. Cohorting protocols have limited these extracurricular options during the pandemic. However, not wanting the students to miss out on these opportunities, Browne’s music teachers have incorporated aspects of the outside ensembles, specifically handbells and choir, into their classroom curriculum. 

The music faculty’s innovation does not end in the music rooms: They also regularly collaborate with teachers of other subjects on cross-curricular projects. Just a few examples:

Soundtracks – Fifth grade science teacher Kristen Oberhofer and middle school music teacher Lucia Schaefer married their two subjects by designing a nature documentary soundtrack project. First each student selected an animal to research after learning about classification and adaptations. They then wrote a research paper, accompanying script, and bibliography. On the music side, students explored the elements of music and used relevant vocabulary to describe music. Next they composed new music for nature documentaries on their selected animal, using those elements of music to sonically describe what was happening in the video. Finally, using their original scripts, they recorded and edited voiceover audio to match the documentary’s video.

Educational Videos – Browne’s 7th and 8th graders completed a “Spanish Sesame Street” project that spanned three subjects: Spanish, music and art. Middle school Spanish teacher Brianna Meyer, Schaefer, and art teacher Polly Beam designed the project whose purpose was to explore how music, art, and culture are incorporated into children’s programming. Using their Spanish vocabulary, child development research, and pedagogical strategies (i.e., repetition, singing, movements, pictures), the middle schoolers wrote scripts, crafted puppets, and painted scenery. The end results were original video segments targeting young Spanish-speaking viewers. Browne’s lower school students were an eager audience for the finished products. 

Black History Through Art – Lower school music teacher Brittany Brandt and her art counterpart Tietjen Alvarez collaborated on a project during Black History Month. First, Mrs. Brandt taught students about musical genres such as jazz, hiphop, pop, and gospel. Students then chose poetry written by African American poets they would then turn into a song. With their knowledge of genres, students chose a genre they thought worked well for their selected poems. Using background tracks in that genre, they created a song or rap using the lyrics of their poem to perform. Next Ms. Tietjen oversaw a mixed media collage project during which each student first chose a genre and an African American or black musician who fit the genre. They incorporated the poems they selected in music class as elements of their art collage. This project explored the creative process in both art and music: creating a collage with meaningful pieces for Black History Month as well as the creative process of organizing the form of a song and making artistic choices that helped the poem shine. 

Regarding the opportunities to work across the curriculum, Schaefer, the middle school music teacher, reflected, “The silver lining of being in our cohorts is that I have really gotten to do a deep dive with the students through arts-integrated units…We are breaking down the perceived barriers between content areas and it is so exciting to see the kids make meaningful connections.”

If you can see your child thriving in intentionally small classes where students engage in hands-on activities spanning various subjects, please connect with Browne by calling 703-960-3000 or emailing admission@browneacademy.org.




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