by Esther Walsh
In many ways, music weaves through the daily lives of each and every student at Kimberton Waldorf School. Not only do the students create music in their music classes and ensembles, but they sing and play music daily during their Main Lessons, in their class plays, in special subject classes such as Spanish and German, and during school festivals. Music is an essential, dynamic frequency that uplifts and enlivens the spirit of the school. What sets Waldorf schools apart, is the use of music during the day and the belief regarding the special influence of music on each child’s physical body, feelings, cognitive processes, social interactions, and inner development.
Rudolf Steiner described the human being as a musical being. He also suggested that creating music is essential in experiencing what it is to be fully human. The Waldorf music curriculum follows specific stages of child development. The aim is not simply to teach children to sing and play music, but actually, awaken qualities of the soul at each developmental phase. What is done in each grade builds upon the work of the previous year, deepening and broadening the skills and experiences already acquired. In the teaching of music, as in all Waldorf pedagogy, there is an awareness of the importance of bringing the right thing at the right time.
For example, if we look at the development of music composition through the grades, the reader will get a picture of how we build composing skills through the years. We could apply this to instrumental music and singing as well.
In first grade, the students move, sing, and listen to many songs that have free rhythms and moods of the fifth and pentatonic scales. They are given simple chimes, bells, lyres, and flutes to play. As we sing simple songs, they improvise and create harmonious sounds that blend nicely with the songs and images that I bring them. Although they do not write music yet, they are listening and creating sounds that fit together nicely.
In second grade we continue to work on their instrumental and singing skills. I introduce a simple colored dot and slash system. The students write their own simple melodies for their pentatonic flutes and lyres using this system.
In third grade, the students learn musical notation. The students transition from playing songs using the pentatonic scales to the C diatonic scales. We still color code the notes. Again, the third graders create simple melodies for their C flutes, the 12-stringed lyres, xylophones, and bells.
In fourth grade the students jump into the world of music notation, theoretical rules, rhythms, and they start playing a stringed instrument; violin, viola, cello, and bass. The knowledge learned during this year will enable the students in fifth and sixth grades to write nicely formed small pieces.
In seventh and eighth grades, we look more closely at rhythms, harmonies, themes, and the blues scale. Students continue to work in smaller groups with various instruments creating original works. Amazingly, most students will get to play at the very least ten different instruments from 1st-8th grades.
By High School, many students have the capacity to write their own compositions, especially if they choose to take our electronic music class. We have had students write ragtime melodies, string quartets, vocal songs accompanied by guitar or ukulele, instrumental solo works, orchestral pieces, and electronic-sounding music. The goal is to have our students gain the music skills needed to be creative and independent musicians at all levels. They achieve an aesthetic awareness of beauty, expression, and confidence to bring music forth and share it with the world.
Kimberton Waldorf School is fortunate to have an experienced and talented music faculty. The teachers are passionate about music and strive to bring meaningful musical experiences to our students. A Cooperative work model, allows the students to experience, first-hand collaboration at a high professional level.
Our Music Department Faculty is:
Esther Walsh is Kimberton Waldorf School’s Music Director. She has been a Music Teacher at KWS since 1998. She helped develop KWS’s current music curriculum. Esther teaches general music classes, all choirs, group lessons, private lessons, and orchestras, and conducts many performances. She is an alumnus of KWS and has two children currently attending KWS.
Mike Ruhl is a classically trained pianist and accomplished performer. He accompanies many of the ensembles in the music program. Mib Campbell, Hsiao Ming Chen, and Mike Ruhl also accompany the Eurythmy classes.
Hsiao-Ming Chen is a professional cellist. She teaches group lessons, private lessons, and orchestras. Her son graduated from KWS last year.
Ryan Leaver plays many different instruments professionally. He teaches group lessons, private lessons, orchestras, and electronic music classes.
John Sergovic is a professional violinist. He helps with our orchestras and teaches private and group lessons.
Dan Smith is an accomplished guitarist. He teaches HS guitar. Dan also teaches sciences and math in the HS. He has two children who currently attend KWS.
Susan Schwaneflugel is an accomplished vocalist. She teaches 11th-grade History through Music Main Lesson. She also teaches German, handwork, and games classes. Her two children have graduated from KWS.
“Music gives a soul to the universe,
wings to the mind, flight to the imagination
and life to everything.”