Fine Arts Programs in Middle Schools

Music

Students in middle school can select from a variety of course offerings in music. Schools offer general music, band, choir, and orchestra in grades 6, 7, and 8. Jazz band and instrumental ensemble are other options for 7th and 8th graders. Each course addresses all aspects of the TEKS and appropriately integrates the strands to make content relevant for students.

In middle school, teachers select literature and materials that will teach, reinforce, and encourage students to apply the appropriate knowledge, concepts, and skills. Some other considerations in selecting literature include:

  • Tessitura of parts
  • Technical demands of the selection
  • Relevance to student interests
  • Relation to a repertoire that encompasses a variety of styles, historical periods, cultural influences, and genres.

In middle school, teacher, peer, and self-assessments help students identify what they have done well, what they can improve, and how improvements can be made. Thoughtful self-assessment stimulates personal achievement and encourages students to take responsibility for their own education. Achievement in music as a result of personal effort and commitment, builds students’ pride and confidence.

Scheduling

Time allotments need to be adequate for students to learn and to demonstrate the TEKS expectations. Secondary considerations for decisions about scheduling and the determination of class size are course content, expectations for demonstrated student achievement, available facilities, staff availability at designated periods of the day, and the format of instructional delivery (e.g., team teaching, heterogeneous or homogeneous grouping, number of beginners in the class).

The number of classes and the number of students taught per day should be comparable to the student load in other disciplines. The needs of all learners, including advanced studies students, students with identified special needs, and those who are not fluent English speakers, should be considered in all scheduling decisions. Scheduling configurations at the middle school level present a variety of scenarios in regard to length of time and patterns of class meetings.

In late elementary and middle school, beginning instrument classes should be taught separately from intermediate and advanced groups. Establishing criteria for determining proficiency levels can be helpful in scheduling classes and determining appropriate materials and instructional strategies. Factors that influence scheduling beginners include staff availability, student enrollment, available facilities, and efficacy of instruction.

Development of choral programs in middle schools requires making important decisions about whether to arrange classes by voice classification, grade levels, or demonstrated proficiency. Factors influencing decisions include staffing, facilities, enrollment, and educational objectives.

Facilities

Middle school music program facilities vary according to the courses taught. Instrumental and vocal classes have unique factors to consider when designing rehearsal and classroom space.

The main room for instrumental groups needs to be large enough to accommodate the largest group that will use the room. Space should provide flexible seating, a minimum of 20 square feet and 400 cubic feet per student with at least 10-15 feet between the front row of players and the front wall. Minimum height of the room should be 16 feet (ideally, 20 feet).

Sound leakage from the room to other parts of the school is also an issue. Acoustical engineers can address reverberation and sound distribution in designing new facilities or in remodeling older facilities.

Climate control is essential for the rehearsal room, smaller ensemble rooms, and practice rooms. Humidity and temperature affect playing qualities, such as intonation, and durability of musical instruments. Air conditioning and heating systems should provide adequate air circulation and should operate quietly. Adequate lighting in all rehearsal and work areas is essential.

Instrumental programs require storage space for resources such as the music library, instruments, uniforms, and recording and video equipment. Equipment and materials include:

  • Instruments of sufficient quantity to ensure balance of instrumentation
  • Chairs designed to encourage good posture
  • Director’s chair, stand, and podium
  • Durable, adjustable music stands in sufficient quantity
  • Stereo sound system with recording and playback capability
  • Electronic tuning device
  • Percussion equipment cabinet with lock
  • Music folio racks
  • Computer with CD-ROM and printer
  • Typewriter
  • Video camera and VCR with monitor
  • Overhead projector and screen.

Additional budgetary considerations include maintenance, repair, and replacement of school-owned instruments and uniforms. Other costs include the purchase of new music and maintenance of the current library and recordings.

The characteristics of the choral music facility are the same as those for the instrumental music program with the following exceptions:

  • The rehearsal room should have 10 square feet of floor space and 200 cubic feet per student.
  • The room should accommodate permanent or portable semi-circular risers. The remaining flat floor space should be large enough for the number of students in the risers.
  • The ceiling of the rehearsal room should be at least 16 feet high.

Additional equipment and material needs include:

  • Pianos for rehearsal and practice rooms
  • A grand piano for the auditorium (recommended)
  • Electronic keyboard with MIDI capacity
  • Student chairs with swivel-type arms
  • Metronome
  • Portable standing risers
  • Seated risers
  • Robes or uniforms and storage facilities
  • Acoustical choral shell (recommended).