Dr. Cottingham was appointed Interim Upper School Director in July 2021, and her Pingry experience includes three years as Upper School Academic Dean and a semester as Interim English Department Chair.
The Lower School's approach to music education is similar to teaching students a world language that is unfamiliar to them. Rather than teaching about music, students learn to become musical and speak the language of music. Leading to performance as an integration of skills learned, students are exposed to music in a variety of ways, including singing, playing musical instruments (woodwind, brass, strings, percussion, recorders, Orff, and other classroom instruments), performing, movement, reading notation, composing, improvising, music technology, and other concepts.
The music program in Kindergarten through Grade 3 focuses on building strong skills emphasizing beat, rhythm, and pitch. Through movement activities and instrumental and vocal ensembles the students learn to feel and respond to beat, tempo, and melody. The introduction of the recorder in Grade 2 facilitates the reading of standard music notation. The recorder then becomes an integral part of subsequent ensembles. A stringed instrument, the mountain dulcimer, is introduced in Grade 3. After each child constructs their instrument, solfege is used as the means of playing melody and chords. Much of the material used in Grade 3 ties directly to their study of the United States. All students participate in the Holiday Concert in December and each class presents a year-end review program for their own parents at the end of May.
Instrumental instruction begins in Grade 4, with the exception of strings, which Kindergarten through Grade 3 students may participate in through the Enrichment program.
Grades 4 General Music emphasizes a variety of concepts including singing, recorder, and other instruments, as well as group piano, music appreciation, music composition, music technology, to name a few!
Field trips to well-known performance venues are also part of General Music.
Grade 4 Chorus meets once per week and includes all students in Grade 4. Concepts of vocal tone production, choral listening and blend, choral repertoire, score reading, and part singing are learned. Chorus 4 performs at the Holiday and Spring concerts.
Beginning a Band Instrument at Pingry: The Grade 4 Instrumental Program begins near the end of third grade, when students attend a demonstration lesson of instruments available to them in Grade 4 (flute, clarinet, trumpet, French horn, baritone, trombone, violin, viola, and cello). After consulting with their parents, students make decisions about playing an instrument. Families of new students entering Pingry in Grade 4 may contact Ms. Liu, Lower School Music Teacher, to discuss instrumental options for their children. Participation in the instrumental program is encouraged, but not required.
At the beginning of Grade 4, students are placed in instrumental classes and are taught the basics of their new instrument. As the year progresses, students develop skills and prepare for the band and strings program in Grade 5.
Grade 4 instrumentalists join to form the Grade 4 Band, which performs in the Spring Concert.
Note: Pingry does not offer beginner instrumental classes during the school day for students after Grade 4.
Students may choose to learn a string instrument (violin, viola, or cello) and enroll in the strings program. Similar to Band, Strings 4 focuses on many of the same concepts required for students to perform.
The strings program differs from band in that it often includes students at continuing levels of proficiency, not just beginners. It is not uncommon for strings instruction to begin at the enrichment class level (or private lessons) as young as Kindergarten. Strings offer this option because, unlike band instruments, string instruments are available in a variety of sizes.
The inclusion of various proficiency levels in the strings program allows them to perform at both Holiday and Spring Concerts each year.
In addition to Band and Strings performing at the Holiday and Spring Concerts, students in Grade 4 are also involved in other performances as opportunities arise.
Grades 5 General Music emphasizes a variety of concepts including singing, recorder, and other instruments, as well as group piano, music appreciation, music composition, music technology, to name a few. WSHR, or “Short Hills Radio," is a Grade 5 General Music project that is heard in the Lower School hallways each morning.
Field trips to well-known performance venues are also part of General Music.
Grade 5 Chorus meets once per week and includes all students in Grade 5. Concepts of vocal tone production, choral listening and blend, choral repertoire, score reading, and part singing are learned. Chorus 5 performs at the All- School Winter Festival Concert at the Basking Ridge Campus, and at the Holiday and Spring Concerts at the Short Hills Campus.
Grade 5 Instrumental Ensembles consist of Band, String Ensemble, and Handbell Choir. Pingry’s Grade 5 Band, String Ensemble, and Handbell Choir meet weekly for rehearsal in addition to General Music and Chorus classes. The Band, String Ensemble, and Handbell Choirs perform at regularly-scheduled concerts during the school year, with occasional additional performance opportunities.
Students who play brass, woodwind, and other band instruments are strongly encouraged to participate in Band. Students playing string instruments are similarly encouraged to participate in the String Ensemble. The Handbell Choir is designed primarily for those students who do not play in band or orchestra instruments, in order to provide these students with an ensemble experience.
Band and Strings students are expected to bring their instruments and music folders each day they have an instrumental class (see below) or rehearsal.
Students participating in the Band program are scheduled for weekly instrumental classes in addition to their full Band rehearsal. These classes group similar instruments together, and are used for continuing musical development in instrumental proficiency. Students purchase a lesson book to use in class (available from The Music Shop with their rental instrument). Instrumental classes (Band, String Ensemble, and Handbell Choir) meet during non-academic periods, so students do not miss other classes in order to participate.
Families of Grade 5 students who wish to take beginning instrumental lessons should arrange for private lessons outside of the school day.
In addition to Band, Handbells, and Strings performing at the Holiday and Spring Concerts, students in Grade 5 are also involved in other performances as opportunities arise. Pianists are invited to perform in the Piano Potpourri, a recital of pianists of all proficiency levels in Grade 5. A handful of high-proficiency pianists are selected to be featured as soloists at the Spring Concert. Fifth graders are also selected for concert stage management, working in small groups to facilitate the concert performances.
It is our tradition to annually train one Band student to conduct the Grade 5 Band’s year-end performances of the Star Spangled Banner (Spring Concert, Field Day, and Moving Up Day).
We recommend that students rent instruments for the first year of study. After a year, students will generally know if they wish to continue. After the first year, students can either continue to rent or could consider purchasing an instrument if their interest is strong.
We recommend The Music Shop in Boonton for our rentals, but students are also welcome to rent elsewhere, borrow, or purchase instruments. The Music Shop is convenient for Pingry students because they stop at our school each week to deliver instruments and music accessories. Their instruments are always in excellent condition.
The Music Shop’s rental forms are online. Grade 3 students signing up for instrumental instruction in Grade 4 should complete the online rental forms by June 1. If the student desires private lessons in the summer, you may request that your instrument is delivered in June. Otherwise, the instruments are delivered in September. (Please note that string students need to be measured because string instruments come in a variety of sizes. Contact Ms. Liu, Lower School Music Teacher, to have your student measured for a string instrument.)
Rental agreements are between the student's family and The Music Shop. Please refer any questions about payments, etc. directly to The Music Shop.
When a student no longer needs to rent their instrument, they should call The Music Shop at (800) 553-0633 to make arrangements for the instrument's return.
The 1,000 Minutes Club is the Lower School's motivational program to encourage students to practice. A log is given to each student in the instrumental program, and they are asked to log all of their practice time and have a parent sign the form each week. After each 1,000 minutes practiced, students are eligible for an award, and students who have practiced 1,000 minutes or more are named in concert programs. Generally, students range from 1,000 to 10,000+ minutes of practicing during the school year. The most important part of this program is that students feel recognized and rewarded for their practicing.
Lower School students may decide to take private lessons. This promotes greater skill development and confidence, and more enjoyment of the instrument. We encourage our students to take private lessons. Students beginning an instrument in other than grade four must take private lessons. Private lessons in brass, woodwinds, and also piano, are available here at school. For more information, contact Ms. Liu, Lower School Music Teacher.