Green Vale’s choral program is a highly joyful and also dead serious celebration of music appreciation, self-expression, and teamwork through singing. The additive effects of an individual voice combining for greater impact with other voices, and ultimately the inclusion of an audience makes for a transcendent shared experience. In conjunction with the broader arts curriculum, Green Vale students understand their own capacity to put forth beauty.
From Nursery through 2nd Grade, students attend specialized music classes once or twice weekly. In homeroom-sized groups, we emphasize replication of melodies and comfort with coordinating movement with music. Basic musical skills including rhythm, ear and pitch training, and exposure to instrumentation are appropriately introduced in an atmosphere that fosters positive social interactions, enjoyment, and respect for space, equipment and group dynamics.
3rd Grade marks the first time students experience music class as a rehearsal for an eventual performance. From this age forward, music classes are primarily performance-based. Thoughtful song selection allows music literacy, historical and cultural context, and music appreciation to be woven into the program meaningfully. (For example, a jazz piece will be introduced to dovetail with an English class study of the Harlem Renaissance.)
The Winter and Spring Concerts are beloved community events where hard work and prodigious talent are showcased to full capacity in Harris Theater.
Green Vale’s institutional commitment to music is evident through the calibre of the departmental faculty as well as the accelerated opportunities seized by many of our students at a rate that exceeds other schools. Motivated and chaperoned by Choral Director Jessica Chen (BA Music, Yale University), these include:
- NYSSMA* solo festivals (Green Vale prepares participants)
- NYSSMA major ensemble competitions
- NYSSMA Honor Choir Festival (Carnegie Hall)
- Performing the national anthem at Citi Field for a Mets game
- Music in the Parks (New Jersey)
- Green Vale Voices (extracurricular advanced chorus for 5th Grades and up)
- ACDA Honors Choir (state level, Albany)
- ACDA Regional Honors Choir (Boston)
* New York State School Music Association is one of the most active organizations for professional music teachers in the country.
Learning in the band
For 4th, 5th and 6th Graders, both chorus and instrumental instruction are mandatory. At the start of 4th Grade, students choose a string or band instrument. Excitedly for many, nervously for some, and noisily for all, they embark on a program of small group lessons, ensemble rehearsals, and strongly encouraged home practice. By design, the music program in younger grades has primed 4th Graders for understanding rhythms and reading music.
Eight specialized instructors disperse with small groups from each grade of 40-45 children to work on the particulars of their chosen instrument. Then, once or twice weekly the entire ensemble (and separately, the string section) comes together under the masterful direction of Michael Mattia, Green Vale’s band leader since the 1980s.
The consistent success of the ensemble’s effort and output owe to Mr. Mattia arranging the performance pieces himself according to the group’s ability. Students enjoy tackling a range of styles, from Herbie Hancock to Holst’s “The Planets” to rock ballad “The Final Countdown”.
Highly motivated musicians seeking additional challenge and involvement may elect to integrate with members of the music faculty to form a pit band for the annual Middle School musical.
Our 7th and 8th Graders have a choice between chorus, band/strings, or both. It’s a testament to both the choral and instrumental programs that so many students choose to continue with both.
Even if students don’t continue to play an instrument past Green Vale, the foundation for understanding and appreciating the skills and nuances intrinsic to the mastery of various instruments, and to blending sounds from diverse instruments, is indelible. There are also lasting benefits from exposure to practice, performance, and teamwork.