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Music is the voice of the Putney School. It is through music that we express the collective personality of the community. At the heart of this is music making in all idioms and genres, from playing guitar around the campfire to playing a string quartet in school assembly; from participating in the weekly all-school Sing to performing a major work for chorus and orchestra. The community is completely supportive of anyone, beginner to virtuoso, who stands up in front of the school and performs. The democratic nature of all-school Sing involves every member of the community, and at the other end of the musical spectrum, private lessons with our many talented and committed adjunct music teachers provide specialized instruction of the highest caliber. Ensemble performance in vocal and instrumental music, including chamber music, chorus, jazz, orchestra and musical theater, is encouraged for all Putney students.
Sing has been a central part of the school's educational program since its founding in 1935. The Sing Book is a compilation of songs that range from madrigals and sacred choruses to sea shanties, folk tunes of world cultures and songs of social protest. The Sing repertoire has grown and evolved over the decades. There is so much to say about Sing: we have used it to welcome guests from other cultures; it has been an opportunity for international members of our community to introduce their own cultures through song. Sing has fostered debate about secularism, religion and spirituality, and about what it means to be a progressive school.
The purpose of Sing, today as in the past, is to bring us the joy of music and a life-long bond with our voices and with each other. By extension, we join with peoples all over the world who have used their voices, often as their only weapon against injustice and hardship, to empower themselves and celebrate their common humanity.
Music Foundation (half credit)
Music Foundation gives students an introduction to the mechanics of music and an opportunity to learn fundamental musical skills. The course is a very practical one, focusing on the basics of music reading as applied in singing and in playing the piano, and the basics of chord reading on the guitar. Students will learn how to sing in tune with a good tone, the basics of the keyboard and how to play simple songs on the piano both through reading and by ear, as well as basic chording on the guitar and how to choose chords for simple song accompaniments. This course is recommended as a prerequisite to Music Theory I. Students should have an acoustic guitar and may purchase a good, basic one through the school. Some guitars may be available on loan to students for whom the cost of purchase is prohibitive.
Music Theory I (half credit)
Music Theory I is intended to take musicians with some basic knowledge of the mechanics of music (note reading, beginning familiarity with the keyboard or other pitched instrument) to a deeper level of understanding of the way music works. The course focuses on the written and aural comprehension of pitch and rhythm as well as phrase structure, melody and basic harmony. The course includes technology-based work using Musition and Auralia software. Prerequisite: Music Foundation or permission of the instructor.
Music Theory II (half credit)
In Music Theory II we delve into deeper topics of music writing and analysis: Fourpart writing, non-chord tones, chord progressions, melody writing, advanced harmonies, modulation and musical form. Basic orchestration and modern compositional techniques are also introduced. Advanced aural and harmonic skills are reinforced through technology-based work using Musition and Auralia software. The course culminates in the complete harmonic and structural analysis of a major work for piano in sonata form. The course is open to students who have completed Music Theory I or the equivalent.
Music Composition (half credit)
This course explores the creation and notation of musical ideas for acoustic and electronic media. The course is designed to be a natural progression from the Music Theory course and continues the process of learning to create and notate musical gestures and ideas. The course begins with melody writing in modes and scales and progresses into counterpoint, harmony and modern techniques. Students will notate their music both in manuscript and in the Sibelius notation program. The structure of the course will be flexible to suit the strengths and desires of the individual student, but will always include at least one composition for acoustic instruments and one for electronic media. Prerequisite: Music Theory I and II or equivalent with permission of the instructor.
Music Intensive (half credit)
This course is designed for advanced musicians who would benefit from a focused and individualized setting in which to develop their skills. The curriculum for the course will be developed by the student in collaboration with the course instructor, but is subject to approval by the private lesson instructor where appropriate. Students must establish and adhere to a weekly schedule of at least three hours per week of practice time (in addition to class time and private lessons). Three short performances (such as performance of a song in school assembly) and a longer final lecture/ demonstration are required. Admission to the class is by permission of the instructor. Students enrolled in private music lessons receive priority.
Jazz Basics (half credit)
This course focuses on the theory and practice of Jazz improvisation. Students will develop both an awareness and understanding of jazz tradition and a personal style within that tradition. The course includes the study and mastery of chords, scales, modes and rhythms in order to give the student improviser the tools needed for mature musical expression. This course is open to any student interested in the various practices and processes of musical improvisation. As Jazz is a global phenomenon incorporating many world music influences, genres from India, Latin America, Africa and Europe will also be examined.
Chamber Music (half credit)
This academic class is open to advanced instrumentalists, primarily string, woodwind and keyboard players. The course provides intensive coached rehearsal of chamber music leading to improved individual and collaborative playing skills, as demonstrated in performances. Time will also be dedicated to developing efficient practice skills and to the formation of strategies to manage performance anxiety or “stage fright”. Prerequisite is an informal audition. All participants (except pianists) are expected to take part in the Putney Community Orchestra.