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The Keys Music program uses a curriculum based on the Orff approach: a developmental method to teaching music that combines music, movement, drama, and speech into lessons that are similar to a child’s world of play. Students gain a multifaceted foundation that includes rich, developmentally appropriate experiences with singing, dancing, music literacy, instrumental music, music history and exposure to world music. All students at Keys have the opportunity to perform at several points in the year. Students experience public speaking, dancing, singing, and making music as a collaborative effort, and also take responsibility for an independent part. Over the years students learn to prepare for concerts, support fellow performers, make and rebound from mistakes, and channel the nerves that can, and do, arise.

A key goal of the program is to help students to develop confidence in making music, by using their voices, bodies and instruments through a variety of improvisatory and structured experiences. Another is to help students understand the emotional component of music—how it can elicit feelings and how it can be used as an expression of ideas and outlet for emotions. Through exposure to music from a wide variety of genres, time periods, and cultures, students come to understand music as a tool for communicating inspiration that is both universal and distinct. Instruction is premised upon the idea that all students should learn to read musical notation, in order to respond to music critically and emotionally, and to develop a strong foundation upon which to build over a lifetime.

Highlights from the program include:


  • »Sing alone and with others
  • »Explore different ways to move to music
  • »Listen, discuss, and react to great works of music
  • »Experiment with playing a steady beat
  • »Play an instrument during a song (a beat, a rhythm, a rest)
  • » Listen & respond to music

First Grade

  • » Sing alone and with a group and perform simple rounds
  • » Explore improvisatory or choreographed movement, alone and with others
  • » Understand basic musical forms and use terminology to describe dynamics
  • » Learn which instruments are part of an orchestra
  • » Experiment with a variety of percussion and bar instruments

Second Grade

  • » Sing complex rounds and partner songs
  • » Use terminology to describe dynamics (volume), form, and style
  • » Listen to and learn the folk dances of various world music traditions
  • » Explore instrumental music through improvisation and simple ensembles
  • » Perform and layer rhythmic ostinatos (patterns) on instruments during a song

Third Grade

  • » Sing complex rounds and partner songs; start simple two-part harmony
  • » Learn the notes of the treble staff and beginning sight-reading work
  • » Use musical terminology to describe dynamics (volume), tempo, form, and style
  • » Listen to music of great composers and discuss their lives
  • » Collaborate to compose and perform instrumental ensembles

Fourth Grade

  • » Sing complex rounds, partner songs and simple two-part harmony
  • » Listen to and explore both Classical and world music traditions
  • » Explore improvisation and complex ensembles on the percussion instruments
  • » Compose using Garage Band; perform instrumental ensembles
  • » Learn to play the soprano recorder using the Recorder Karate program

Fifth Grade

  • » Recognize instrument sounds, texture differences, musical styles, and simple forms
  • » Learn to hear and practice intervals and harmony, beat and rhythm
  • » Write in correct notation using quarter, eighth and sixteenth notes and rests
  • » Recognize, read and perform notes on a staff in treble clef
  • » Learn correct vocal production (breathing and producing a good tone)

Sixth Grade

  • » Perform complex melodies and patterns on bar instruments
  • » Recognize instrument sounds, texture differences, musical styles, and simple forms
  • » Learn to read a choral score; sing rounds, partner songs, and two-part harmony
  • » Compose and perform rhythmic ostinatos on a variety of instruments, as well as complex melodies and patterns on bar instruments
  • » Study of traits of American music such as Blues, Gospel, Country, Spirituals and Jazz

Seventh Grade

  • » Write and discuss to describe the qualities and emotional aspects of music
  • » Expand rhythmic vocabulary; write of rhythms in correct notation
  • » Participate in drum circles
  • » Study the music of the Renaissance
  • » Explore use of acoustic instruments and everyday objects as sound sources
  • » Compose and perform more complex melodies, rhythms and harmonies

Eighth Grade

  • » Respond to music critically and emotionally, orally and in writing
  • » Learn more advanced intervals and harmony
  • » Explore West African, Brazilian (rote learning) and the like, rhythms and songs, and Western music percussion ensembles (reading notation, following a conductor)
  • » Sing more advanced rounds, partner songs, and two- and three-part harmony
  • » Combine and experiment with learned techniques to compose collaborative works

Keys School - Lower Campus · 2890 Middlefield Road · Palo Alto, CA · 94306
Keys School - Middle Campus · 3981 El Camino Real · Palo Alto, CA · 94306

Phone: 650-328-1711