Decision Points

Interior Masthead

students singing in ensemble

Pre-K through 2nd Grade

All students in grades Pre-K through second grade take general music class, where they explore musical concepts including singing, moving, playing instruments, folk dance and creative movement. All students have the opportunity to perform for the school community and families. All students may choose to take private lessons via the After School Music Lesson Program.

Decision Point - 3rd Grade Music Ensemble Choice

Third and Fourth Grade Ensemble Program - A joyous discovery of performance skills, musical confidence and personal discipline. Families ideally make a two-year commitment to an ensemble:

String Ensemble – A thoughtful process of learning to play violin, viola or cello through group music making

  • Beginning string instruction using a mixture of methodologies in a fun atmosphere
  • Emphasis on aural skills throughout the curriculum to develop your ear
  • Repertoire drawn from classical, folk and popular music
  • Develop fluency with standard musical notation and basics of tonality and harmony

String Ensemble families are encouraged to rent instruments or may borrow a Friends Select instrument on loan for the school year.

Orff Ensemble – A thoughtful process of learning improvisation, composition, and creative expression

  • Play xylophones, recorders, drums and percussion to hone listening skills and instrumental technique
  • Repertoire drawn from classical, jazz, folk and world music
  • Exploration of pulse, pitch and rhythm and style
  • Musical games, speech-rhythms and body percussion
  • Focus on texture, dynamics, musical form and tonality, phrasing and rhythmic patterning

Decision Point - Middle School Performance Choice

Fifth and sixth grade are ideal times to begin playing a woodwind, brass, percussion, or amplified/electric instrument or develop the singing voice. Friends Select offers private lessons in almost all instruments through the after school music lesson program and welcomes all instruments into the Orchestras.

Students who play in the LS String Ensemble often continue on to MS Orchestra.

Students who play in the LS Orff Ensemble often move either into MS Chorus, MS Orchestra, or MS Percussion Ensemble.

Students who are passionate singers or who do not feel a clear choice or who want to explore their musicianship often move into MS Chorus.

Students who have played in String Ensemble or Orff Ensemble who are either interested in woodwind or brass instruments OR who wish to build on the skills they have learned on a new instrument often change instruments in fifth or sixth grade.

Students who are passionate actors choose to pursue MS Drama.

  • In Orchestra, students begin to work more independently on their chosen instrument. Families are expected to rent or purchase an instrument and many choose to begin private lessons. This choice is best for students who are eager to continue on their instrument or for eager beginners with private instruction. All non-percussion instruments welcome. This is an opportunity for students to choose a woodwind or brass instrument.
  • In Percussion Ensemble, students work as a group on mallet instruments, drums, and other found objects. Students who have experience on any instrument find a comfortable home in this ensemble, particularly those with keyboard experience.
  • In Chorus students focus on developing vocal technique through a wide variety of repertoire. Students who enjoy singing, who are music lovers generally, or who are unsure what performance group to choose find a comfortable home in this ensemble.
  • In Drama students learn craft, with the first semester focused on instruction and the second semester focused on performing. Space is limited in MS Drama courses and an audition is required. This choice is best for students who are or wish to become dedicated and passionate actors.*

*ALL MS STUDENTS are able to take part in the Winter Middle School Play.

"Although most students remain with an ensemble for multiple years, they are allowed to switch ensembles between grades."

Decision Point - Upper School

Students can join the Chorus or Instrumental Ensemble, out of which the Small Ensembles are derived. These courses are full-year commitments and meet along the same daily schedule as all academic classes. Small Ensembles meet twice a cycle while the Instrumental Ensemble meets for the remaining three periods, one of which is a double period. Upper School groups perform three concerts a year, including an off-campus performance in a professional venue.

All Instrumental Ensemble students will choose a Small Ensemble: Percussion Ensemble, Chamber Music, or Lab Band. The Percussion Ensemble gives percussionists a chance to further develop their skills and musical perspectives by playing music where percussive instruments are in the forefront. Chamber Music is a choice for students who would like to play classical music in small groups. Lab Band will work on multi-genre projects informed by students interest.

Students can also take Drama I or II as a full-year course to delve deeply into all aspects of the dramatic arts. Students produce a variety of work both independently and in small groups throughout the year. Additionally, the drama program involves robust community engagement through partnerships with Walnut Street Theater, Philly Young Playwrights, and others.

For both Music and Drama there are student-run clubs that provide additional opportunities.