The music program at Shepherd Elementary School covers music history and culture, a wide variety of types of music (from Bach to blues), note-reading and beat-counting, and even composing lyrics to a blues or rap song. We sing, we play instruments, we listen to recordings and live performances, and we learn about the connections between music and our cultural history. We support the International Baccalaureate program by singing in many languages and learning about music from around the world. Occasionally, we become activists and write letters urging that Paul Robeson be included in the next D.C. Public Schools music textbook.
Here’s a brief list of music activities:
- Concerts: We sing and play violin and recorder for our annual holiday concert in December. In February, we do a concert with a historical or cultural theme, such as “Songs of Freedom and Justice: 150 Years of American History in Song” (which we performed in 2012). Finally, on June 1, our guitarists and violinists perform and the BWL rhythm-and-blues band rocks!
LISTEN to Shepherd students talk about “Songs of Freedom and Justice” on WPFW!
- “The blues is the roots… everything else is the fruits”: This quote by Willie Dixon helps us understand how important the 12-bar blues is to almost all of the modern music we listen to, including jazz, R&B, rock, gospel, hip-hop, and other genres. Students get a broad exposure to the world of music.
- Violin, guitar, and recorder: Our 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade violinists give up recess once a week to play violin. Guitar is taught in aftercare, and recorder is taught in beforecare.
- Music outside the school: Each year, we take our 5th graders to the Kennedy Center to hear an orchestra concert or excerpts from an opera. A few students (and families) make the monthly trip to Levine School of Music to the “Community Sing” with Ysaye Barnwell of Sweet Honey in the Rock. The D.C. Labor Chorus rehearses at Shepherd Elementary School every Monday night, and several students and alumnae have joined the chorus. The D.C. Labor Chorus sings with our students at the February concert at the school. Several Shepherd students play their instruments at the D.C. Youth Orchestra. The D.C. Youth Orchestra (now meeting at the newly renovated Eastern High School) is a wonderful opportunity to learn to play instruments in a very positive educational environment.
- Our campaign to get Paul Robeson into the DCPS textbooks: After studying about Paul Robeson each year (for which we find outside resources since Robeson is not in our music textbook), our students write letters to the DCPS director of music or to textbook publishers urging that Paul Robeson be included in the next book. Some of our students have been interviewed about this campaign on WAMU-FM Radio and on WPFW-FM Radio.