Course Offerings

Active participation best describes the philosophy of the music program at Fieldston Upper, which includes performance groups as well as courses in electronic music, music theory, and composition. The curriculum combines individual development and group participation at appropriate ability levels for both instrumental and voice students. All students enrolled in performance groups are involved in concerts throughout the year; these range from the Holiday Concert, featuring the high school orchestra, chorus, and jazz and percussion ensembles, to the more intimate jazz improv and chamber music settings.

Forms III-VI, Music Minors

The full-year courses offer the music student performance groups in chamber ensembles; the studio wind ensemble; percussion, jazz, and vocal ensembles; as well as credit in non-performing classes in theory, composition, and electronic music.

Music 748, High School Orchestra

High School Orchestra is a large classical music ensemble for students who play string instruments. It provides an opportunity for students to develop ensemble playing, improve sight-reading and listening skills, and perform larger works. It is also a preparation for Chamber Music, which accepts players from the orchestra who are more advanced on their instruments.

Music 749, Studio Wind Ensemble

Studio Wind Ensemble is a class studying and performing a challenging and eclectic repertoire of wind music from Renaissance to New Music, film scores, rock, World Music, and more (Bach, Stravinsky, Gershwin, Danny Elfman, Frank Zappa, Led Zeppelin, John Lennon). Wind students entering this class must be proficient sight-readers on their instrument and be able to play all material in a typical “Book 2” band method. This class is for wind instruments and piano only. String players should enroll in High School Orchestra.

Music 746, Advanced Chamber Music

This course provides an opportunity for advanced students of strings, wind, and piano to play chamber music. Experience playing with the High School Orchestra (or, for wind players, the Studio Ensemble) is required for admission. For admission, all students will have to demonstrate advanced sight-reading and technical skills on their instruments. It is strongly recommend that all Chamber Music students also take private music lessons outside of Fieldston.

Music 752, Jazz Ensemble

Jazz Ensemble is an introductory course for 9th and 10th graders that builds on the fundamental ensemble playing skills learned in middle school band through the study of standard jazz literature. The class usually has 17 students, the standard size and instrumentation of a jazz big band. Students will study sight-reading, scales, section playing, intonation, and jazz phrasing by learning the music of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and other jazz greats. Entering Jazz Ensemble students must be able to play major scales and read music. Completion of 8th-grade band is adequate preparation for students entering Jazz Ensemble in 9th grade. There is no audition required for this course. Participation in all concerts is required.

Music 753, Concert Jazz

Concert Jazz is a continuation of Jazz Ensemble and focuses on more advanced music. Students will study sight-reading, scales, section playing, intonation, and jazz phrasing, and their application to jazz. Students entering Concert Jazz must have completed Jazz Ensemble or be admitted after an audition with the instructor. They must also be able to play all 12 major scales and read music accurately. Participation in all concerts is required.

Music 754, Jazz Improvisation: Level I

Jazz Improvisation I is a small class roughly the size of a jazz combo that focuses on small group improvisation and the music theory needed to play in this style. Students learn and perform the music of jazz greats such as Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane. Most students entering this class have little or no experience playing jazz and are usually in 9th or 10th grade. Students enrolling in Jazz Improvisation should know their major scales and be able to read music. There is no audition required for this course. Participation in all concerts is required.

Music 755, Jazz Improvisation: Level II

This course provides an opportunity to study various styles of small-group jazz playing. Students study basic functional harmony and its application to improvisation. Students entering Jazz Improvisation II must have completed Jazz Improvisation I or Jazz Ensemble to be admitted, after an audition with the instructor. They must also be able to play all 12 major scales and related tonic and dominant chords, know all fingerings on their instruments, and be able to sight-read accurately. Students who have difficulty reading music will be admitted only after auditioning for the instructor. Participation in all concerts is required.

Music 750, Jazz Improvisation: Level III

This course is a continuation of Jazz Improvisation II. More complex theoretical and harmonic concepts are introduced. Students entering Jazz Improvisation III must have completed Jazz Improvisation II or be admitted after an audition with the instructor. They must also be able to play all 12 major scales and related tonic and dominant chords as well as all natural minor scales. They must also be able to play all Dorian and Mixolydian scales and related 7th chords. Students are expected to know all fingerings on their instruments and be able to sight-read accurately. Students who have difficulty reading music will be admitted only after auditioning for the instructor. Participation in all concerts is required.

Music 750A, Jazz Improvisation: Level IV

This course is a continuation of Jazz Improvisation III. More complex theoretical and harmonic concepts are introduced. Students entering Jazz Improvisation IV must have completed Jazz Improvisation III or be admitted after an audition with the instructor. They must also be able to play all 12 major scales and related tonic and dominant chords as well as all natural minor scales. They must also be able to play all Dorian and Mixolydian scales and related 7th chords. Students are expected to know all fingerings on their instruments and be able to sight-read accurately. Students who have difficulty reading music will be admitted only after auditioning for the instructor. Participation in all concerts is required. It is strongly recommended that all students enrolled in this course take private lessons on the instrument they are studying in class from September through June.

Music 757, Form III Percussion

Form III students with at least two years of previous percussion or piano/keyboard experience will be placed in a section which participates in the Studio Wind Ensemble (and the High School Orchestra on an as-needed basis). On occasion, a beginner level, non-performing section may be created for students entering the upper school without previous percussion experience. Please speak to the instructor for information regarding placement.

Music 758A, Percussion Ensemble I

This is a course for 10th graders focusing on student-led percussion ensemble repertoire. Generally, ensemble members are encouraged to improvise as well as to be more involved in all aspects of the music, from the choice of repertoire to performance presentation. Students are required to perform in all related concerts. Ninth-grade or Form III percussion is a prerequisite for this course, but please speak to the instructor for information regarding placement.

Music 758B, Percussion Ensemble II

This is a course focusing on student-led percussion ensemble repertoire. Generally, ensemble members are encouraged to improvise as well as to be more involved in all aspects of the music, from the choice of repertoire to performance presentation. Students are required to perform in all related concerts. Percussion Ensemble I is a prerequisite for this course, but please speak to the instructor for information regarding placement, as this may be a mixed-grade class.

Music 758C, Percussion Ensemble III

This course is an advanced ensemble for students with at least three years of previous percussion or piano/keyboard experience. Emphasis is on student-led and arranged ensemble repertoire in a variety of styles. Generally, ensemble members are encouraged to improvise as well as to be more involved in all aspects of the music, from the choice of repertoire to performance presentation. Participation in all concerts is required, including the pep rally and homecoming. Percussion Ensemble II is a prerequisite for this course, but please speak to the instructor for information regarding placement.

Music 741, High School Chorus

Students perform music from the Renaissance period through the 20th century. Emphasis is placed on reading skills, breath support, and singing technique. Solo opportunities are created in this ensemble. Participation in all concerts is required.

Music 742, Advanced Vocal Techniques

This class focuses on solo, duet, trio, and small ensemble literature with an opportunity to perform music in the jazz/Broadway genre. Students work on the technical aspects of healthy singing: breath support, vowel placement, and posture. Prerequisite for Jazz/Broadway Vocal Techniques: solid sense of pitch and ability to hold a vocal line. Entrance to the class is with department approval. Participation in all concerts is required. Any student taking Advanced Vocal Techniques must also be enrolled in the High School Chorus. It is strongly recommended that all students in this course take private lessons. The students in Jazz Vocal Techniques will stage a chamber opera each year during the winter, in addition to other class assignments. This will require some rehearsal outside of class. These rehearsals may fall on weekends and after school.

Music 791, Digital/Electronic Music for All Levels—Beginner to Advanced

Digital/Electronic Music is a yearlong course where music is created with computers. Once registered, students will be divided into sections according to experience and ability. The software programs used and explored in the course are Reason 6, Logic Pro 9 (the state-of-the-art audio/midi computer program), Recycle, Sibelius 7, and Garageband. Students will compose using MIDI, sampling, and audio projects, creating original compositions and/or sound design techniques. In addition, students will have the opportunity to collaborate with the film and dance departments, creating film scores and concert dance pieces. For advanced students, techniques using MIDI file-sharing and hard disk recordings, which focus on the integration of all the software programs accompanied by advanced recording methods, will be explored. All students will produce CDs and a SoundCloud account of their compositions, with emphasis on producing refined master mixes of their work. There is no prerequisite and all levels are accommodated simultaneously.

Music 798, Music Composition

Music Composition is a yearlong course and will explore the concepts, skills, and techniques involved in composing music. The course will focus on melody, harmony, and counterpoint as well as contemporary practices and techniques. The fundamentals of orchestration and music calligraphy will also parallel the study of music composition. Students will write a series of short compositions and will be expected to compose a year-end final project. The ECFS Digital Music Studio will enable students to compose, hear, and print out their compositions using Sibelius 7 and Logic Pro 9. Student composers will have the opportunity to write music for ECFS music students in order to have their work performed and recorded. In addition, young composers will have an additional opportunity to work with professional musicians; for example, over the last two years, the Manhattan String Quartet has held master classes at Fieldston, enabling the students to hear their music performed with instructive feedback from the quartet. The course is open to all students.

Music 7944, LP: Twelve Albums That Changed the World

This course, a product of interdisciplinary collaboration between the performing arts and history departments, will explore the cultural consequences of a technological innovation: the development of 12-inch, 33-rotations-per-minute (rpm) records in the mid-20th century. The popular music that resulted in the decades that followed—music oriented around the photographic metaphor of the album (i.e., a collection of pieces in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts)—both reflected and transformed the tenor of American life in the late 20th century and had global impact. We will discuss this music, as well as its racial, class, gender, regional, and other implications. Albums to be listened to and contextualized will include the work of performers such as Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, and Joni Mitchell, as well as influences on their art. Students will be asked to read, write, and think critically about music in ways broadly applicable to the humanities in general. This course satisfies two hours of music major and gives students a minor music credit or a major history credit.

Music 792B, Beginning Music Theory

Beginning Music Theory is a yearlong course and will present a general survey of musical techniques and skills. The curriculum will include music fundamentals (keys, scales, etc.), counterpoint, voice leading, harmony, and 20th-century concepts with analysis of music from each period. The curriculum will be accompanied by specific musical examples, which will be presented on recordings, printed musical score, and multimedia formats. The course offers the student the opportunity to apply these ideas and concepts through exercises and the analysis of short musical compositions. In addition to traditional classroom teaching methods, the course will utilize the ECFS MIDI/Electronic Music Studio as well as other media, which will allow the students to explore new music technologies that are available in music theory and ear training. There are no prerequisites.

Music 794, Advanced Music Theory

This course will extend and develop the ideas and principles explored in Beginning Music Theory. Counterpoint, chromatic harmony, and 20th-century atonal concepts will be introduced, as well as advanced music analysis. In addition, the study of counterpoint will be continued and will include the practice of multiple voices. The curriculum will be accompanied by specific musical examples that will be presented on recordings, printed scores, and multimedia formats. Ear training will continue to be practiced, reflecting these new techniques and concepts. In addition to traditional teaching, the class will utilize the Fieldston Digital Music Studio and all of its resources, such as Sibelius 7 and Logic Pro 9 music software, to enhance and explore music. (Prerequisite: Beginning Music Theory or permission from the instructor.)

Music 795, Latino Labyrinth: The Rhythm of Rebellion

This performance-based, interdisciplinary, bilingual course looks at the development of rhythm and music in historical and cultural context, incorporating Spanish language, music, and dance. Learn the connection of Pop music in its current form to its beginnings in Africa, Spain, the Caribbean, and the United States. We'll unravel six key Latin rhythms and dances that exploded onto the world stage and had their foundations in a people's struggle for independence and national identity. This course satisfies two hours of music major and gives students a minor music credit, or a major Spanish credit. It does not count towards the language requirement. Prerequisites: Successful completion of Spanish III or passing a Spanish admissions interview, and one year of percussion (ideally) or a year of playing a musical instrument within the last three years.

Forms III-VI, Music Majors

Music 744, Vocal Arts Major

High School Chorus, Advanced Vocal Techniques, and any other music course constitute a vocal arts major. The major participates in all choral performances during the year. It is strongly recommended that all students enrolled in this course take private lessons in the voice they are studying in class from September through June. Any music major who has completed one year of Music Theory and one year of Music History may take Electronic Music to complete the major in the third year.

Music 747, Orchestra Major

Chamber Music, Orchestra, and any other music class constitute an orchestra major. Students will work on directing skills and orchestral score study with the opportunity to direct an instrumental ensemble group in practice and concert. The major is required to participate in all chamber music and orchestral performances during the year. It is strongly recommended that all students enrolled in this course take private lessons on the instrument they are studying in class from September through June.

Music 756, Jazz Major

Concert Jazz, Jazz Improvisation III, individual meeting with the instructor, and any other music course constitute a jazz major. The major is required to participate in all jazz performances during the school year. It is strongly recommended that all students enrolled in this course take private lessons on the instrument they are studying in class from September through June.

Music 759, Percussion Major

Any four periods of percussion plus any other music course constitute a percussion major. Participation in all concerts is required. It is strongly recommended that all students enrolled in this course take private lessons on the instrument they are studying in class from September through June.

Music 756A, Music Major

Any combination of three two-period music courses constitutes a music major. Participation in concerts is required. It is strongly recommended that all students enrolled in this course take private lessons on the instrument or voice they are studying in class from September through June.

Music 799, Composition/Digital Music Major

A composition/digital music major will take Music Composition, Digital/Electronic Music, and other music classes, such as Music Theory or an ensemble, and regularly meet one-on-one with the instructor. Students will be encouraged to seek out musicians from the Fieldston community to perform their work and be encouraged to seek out filmmakers, dancers, and theater artists from the Fieldston community. Student composers will have the opportunity to write music for ECFS music students in order to have their work performed and recorded. In addition, students will have an additional opportunity to work with professional musicians; for example, over the last two years, the Manhattan String Quartet has held master classes at Fieldston, enabling the students to hear their music performed with instructive feedback from the quartet.