Schools for the Arts & Music
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I've been trying to get a good handle on Music Programs in the Bay Area and have not
been having much luck.
We want to transfer our 8yr old either into a Music School (if there's any that's more
general than Crowden)in 2013/2014 or at the very least into a school with decent
academics through K-8 that has an excellent Music program.
Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
Black Pine Circle
in Berkeley, a K-8 school, has a fantastic music program. They have
excellent teachers and put a strong emphasis on music. All the kids learn to play the violin
and read music. They have several orchestras in the school (and a funky band in the middle
school). If your child loves singing and playing music then BPC would be a great fit. Great
school in every other area too!
You didn't say whether your 8-year-old is a boy or girl, but if he's a boy, you should
really consider the Pacific Boychoir Academy
(off Piedmont Ave in Oakland). It's a
world-class music training and performance institution, with music integrated into the day
school curriculum. The boys learn music through the most fundamental instrument--the
voice--which lays the groundwork for musical achievement on any instrument and in any style.
Plus, the academics are stellar--art, sciences, languages (Latin! Who learns Latin
anymore?!). Really a gem of a school.
Fan of PBA
Hi! For an elementary school with a good music program and solid academic program, you
should check out Black Pine Circle in West Berkeley. The music program there was one of the
main reasons we chose it for my son, who seemed not only musically inclined but also a quick
study in math. Starting in kindergarten, the kids can take string instruments as an option
(during the school day) and on top of that everyone has a regular music class 3 times a
week. Drama and visual arts are also emphasized, and the arts are considered as vital to a
basic education as strong academics. As the kids get older, there are lots of different ways
to develop musically, with junior orchestra for 2nd and 3rd graders who have been playing an
instrument at school since K or at home with private lessons, and then moving on to advanced
orchestra, band, and chorus. At the middle school level they can participate in solo and
ensemble concerts. We just had the school winter concert for K-5 today, in fact, and it was
so fun to see the kindergarteners handling their instruments and the progress up to the 5th
graders playing demanding classical music or rocking out in band. (The band teacher is
especially great!) I really like how much a part of everyday school life music is, with a
large portion of the school body toting around instruments from the youngest age--it's just
the norm. Anyway, check it out. It's an independent school, but tuition is on the reasonable
side among East Bay independent schools, under $20K, and financial aid is available.
I would strongly encourage you to take a look at
Beacon Day School. It has very strong
music, dance and art programs. The teachers are excellent, and they are extremely supportive
and encouraging. Prior to Beacon, my son had little interest in music. Within months, he was
not only learning to play various instruments, he was happily giving up some of his free
time to participate in an ensemble.
As he has progressed to middle school, he is learning new instruments, more music theory,
and being challenged in ways that perfectly complement the excellent academic courses at
Beacon. What I also love is that, due to small classes, students who come in already playing
an instrument (or already mastering a particular instrument) are challenged in new ways
appropriate to their interests and skill-level.
Beacon is a fantastic school, and its music program is one of just MANY reasons it has
worked out so well for my son.
Check out beaconday.org for more information.
Very Happy Beacon Parent
Walden Center and School at
McKinley and Dwight in Berkeley has a fantastic music program led by Harry Gray,
a very experienced educator and musician with a masters in music education and a
PhD in music theory from Northwestern
(http://www.walden-school.net/who-are-we/staff/harry-gray/). My child is reading
music for vocal and recorder and getting a great grounding in music theory as
well as having tons of fun in ensemble work. Kids also get to do musical theater
in the Walden drama program led by Russell Wright, who has won the East Bay
Express award for Best of the East Bay Arts Educator 3 years in a row. You might
check out one of the school's many cultural events to get a sense of the joyous
energy in Walden's arts programs--each child is respected as an artist, and
grows up with a healthy sense of confidence in his or her ability based on well
developed skills. It's wonderful to see a body of students so expressive,
fearless, creative and thoughtful in their approach to performance.
The last recommendation for music in schools is from 2008. Does anyone have any
more recent experience or advice about an elementary and/or middle school with a
great music program?
The Crowden Music School
in Berkeley is an amazing school in every way. My
daughter started in 4th grade as a beginning violinist, and thrives. I have
never seen so many happy, bright children in one school community, starting
in 4th and going through middle school. This is an exceptional school in
so many ways, academically, musically, socially, it is a utopia for us. You
must take a tour!
Very Happy Parent!
Well, you won't find a better middle school focused on music than
Crowden School! It is a private school in N. Berkeley serving grades 4-8. My
musical son is thriving! The curriculum is stuffed with music (instrument,
ensemble, orchestra, chorus, and even music history) and the academics are
top notch. Expectations are set high and the kids are all inspired to meet
them. It is a unique and wonderful gift you can give your musically-oriented
Check them out at: www.crowden.org
Escuela Bilingue Internacional (Pre-K through 5th grade, expanding to 6th
grade for next year) has, among other strengths, a terrific music program.
My daughter, currently in Pre-K, has thrived with the school's approach to
music. She comes home every day belting out new songs. Her music teacher,
Jackie Rago, is an accomplished musician who clearly has a talent for
working with kids. My daughter is very fond of her and always makes sure to
point her out to me at school. The recent Halloween performance was a real
treat, consisting entirely of original compositions created in collaboration
with the students. The kids threw their heart and soul into the
performance, and it was spectacular.
I have a child who is very musically inclined. Do any of the
private schools have good music programs? My son specifically
likes drums, guitar and singing. When I was in school all they
offered was flute and clarinet and bell chiming. Everyone says
they have a music program but I want to hear from some parents
about what the schools REALLY offer.
Have you checked out St. Paul's yet?
The music program there is
extensive and is an integral part of the daily school program
and school community. The school has seven staff members for
the K-8 music program, and each teacher brings a wealth of
experience. For instance, the school recently had a music
program for grandparents' day, and I was struck by how each
teacher offered something unique (e.g., one of the songs that
one class sang was from the from the Caribbean where the teacher
is from). Several of the teachers have been at the school for a
long time (22, 20, and 17 years respectively), and all have so
much enthusiasm and joy with the kids. It is very neat to watch
these interactions. There is a K-2 choir, 3rd, 4th and 5th
grade choir, and 6th grade acapella choir. They perform at
grandparents day, the winter holiday program, the spring concert
and african american culture night. The 6th grade choir
recently performed at the Oakland Coliseum gospel concert.
Beginning in third grade, the children also have instrumental
music lessons within the school day. They specialize in conga
drumming and other percussion instruments. The students learn
music theory, basic music terminology, sing scales, etc. The
after school instrumental music program includes classes in
brass, violin, and woodwinds, as well as band. The whole school
also gets together on Fridays for ''chapel'' where they sing
together (the songs aren't religious but rather world music from
many different cultures). The other thing I've noticed is just
how much my child sings and dances at home since he has been at
St. Paul's, which says a lot to me about what a key role music
plays in the school. Just tonight he was singing a song about
world peace as I was putting him to bed (very touching!).
St. Paul's Mom
St. Paul's Episcopal School
in Oakland has an AMAZING music
program. There is a choir for K-2nd grade, 3rd, 4th and 5th
grade and the 6th grade has an acapella choir. The choirs
perform at grandparents day, holiday programs, the spring
concert and at African American cultural night. The 6th grade
choir performed at the Oakland Colisseum gospel concert. In the
third grade they start an instrumental music program within the
school day. They specialze in conga drumming and other
percussion instruments. Students learn music theory, basic
music terminology, singing scales, etc. What's really great is
you can sign your child up for personal music lessons that take
place after school on campus. They have guitar, piano and other
string instrument instruction.
My son (in K) is a very shy boy and to see him walk onto the
stage and sing in front of the school right there front row
center brought a tear to my eye. He's gaining so much
confidence. This is something I never thought he'd be able to
do. He's already reminded me several times that he has to
dress ''handsome'' for the holiday concert because ''This is a
really big deal!''
I'm not sure if you are acquainted with
The Crowden School in
Berkeley. We offer a truly unique program that combines the
study of chamber music with a full academic curriculum. All
students choose a string instrument, and we also offer a small
piano program. Music classes include instrument technique,
theory, composition, ensembles, orchestra, and chorus.
Crowden's academic program focuses on using critical thinking
skills and project-based learning. In addition to the core
subjects (English, math, history, and science), we offer
French, music history, P.E. and art. The discipline and focus
required for the music program is reflected in the approach to
Crowden graduates are well-prepared and well-rounded, and are
accepted into their choice of high schools around the Bay Area.
Beginning string students are accepted in 4th and 5th grade.
Our next open house is on Wednesday, January 14th, 6:30-7:30
pm. We offer tours of the music program every Thursday morning.
For more information about The Crowden School, please call 510-
559-6910 ext. 122 or visit our website at www.crowden.org.
Heidi Mattson-Admissions Coordinator-The Crowden School
My son will start kindergarten next year and is already showing signs
of being gifted
musically. I would like to find a school for him that has a strong
(preferably in percussion and/or band) where he can flourish. So far we
between some small private schools where music is integrated throughout
curriculum but there may not be the opportunity to really be challenged
in band, and public schools where music is not so central but all kids
and choose an instrument in 3rd grade. I'm also looking for something
music from a multicultural perspective. I'd appreciate any advice from
parents of other
Black Pine Circle
St. Paul's Episcopal School
I'm just beginning the search for a public school kindergarten for my
son for next fall. Maybe contrary to many parents I'm not looking for
a school with good test grades, fancy facilities, etc etc, but am
wondering if there are still schools that exist that have a play based
kindergarten that is not pushing the academics? That has music and
the arts as a central part of the curriculum throughout the grades
rather than as ''extra curricular activity''? Is Berkeley arts Magnet
really still alternative and arts based? My son is extremely creative
and musical and the thought of him being stuck at a desk next year
learning phonics is enough to make me want to homeschool him.
Any recommendations appreciated!
Malcolm X Elementary School (2 reviews)
We have an extremely bright, verbal, active 4.5 year old who
will be five this November. All she wants to do is sing,
dance and play imaginary dramatic games. She also loves
to be read to and loves to talk to adults. We have decided to
wait until she will be turning six to start kindergarten. She
has done well in a play based part-time pre-school for this
past year and will continue there this coming fall. Does
anyone know of a good elementary school for this type of
child? We cannot see her doing well in a traditional
classroom. Any current info on the Walden Center School?
need a heavy on the arts school
Walden School (two reviews)
My husband and I have a similar situation to yours; our children sound
like they are
on the same trajectory. Over the past 5 months we toured (in person!)
10 schools in
the East Bay (right now we live on the peninsula).
Some were schools we knew were not right for us but we wanted to hear all the offerings and truly
get a feel for
what was out there. I am also a fine artist so I really scrutinized the
art programs of
the above schools as that is a part of the curriculum that is extremely
me and one which I feel (based on my child's interests right now) would
her well. The school that most impressed us as a good fit for a bright
with creative proclivities was by far Prospect Sierra (in El Cerrito)
followed closely by
Park Day (in Oakland).
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