Elementary School: All students in elementary grades (K-5) meet once each week for a general music class taught by a certified music teacher. Beginning in 3rd grade (strings) or 4th grade (band and strings), students are offered the opportunity to learn an instrument, take part in chorus, or both. The 4th and 5th grade chorus and instrument classes meet once each week. For a number of years, not all instruments can be offered at each of the elementary schools due to a shortage of teachers, and 5th grade students could not begin a new instrument. Thankfully, that is no longer true. Depending on the individual school’s schedule, sometimes classes begin at 8 am, before the beginning of the school day and last until 8:40 am. Other classes meet the last 40 minutes of the day before dismissal. Thus, students taking these music classes miss part of their regularly scheduled time with their main teacher. These classes are quite popular! Attending any of the elementary school winter concerts, Bandarama in March, or the All-elementary spring concert is a real treat.
In years past, elementary group instrument classes met twice each week.
Middle School: At the Middle School, students choose between instruments and chorus due to scheduling constraints. These classes meet every other day for the entire year. Prior to 2011, stage band (a mixed ensemble of 6th–8th grade students playing jazz) met during extended homeroom once per week. Also in past years, the band and strings learned common music and periodically practiced together as a full orchestra, but there is not a common teaching time for full orchestra because the teachers travel between schools. The Middle School full orchestra has traditionally played at Memorial Day assemblies and 8th grade graduation. With funding from Friends of Watertown Music, Middle School Jazz Band was created in the 2012-2013 school year!
Also in years past, all 7th grade students were offered general music instruction. Those classes met every other day for a trimester. General music continues to be offered for a trimester term, every other day, to most 6th grade students.
The Middle and High School band and strings directors have also supported students’ participation in Massachusetts Music Educators Association District and State Festivals.
High School: At the High School, students usually must choose between instruments and chorus, depending upon the year’s master schedule. Band, strings, and chorus are regular classes meeting in the same everyday rotating class schedule as all academic classes. A cappella is an auditioned singing ensemble that meets once per week in the evening. In the past including, non-performance electives were offered in guitar, composition and electronic music. Guitar workshop was restored in 2012-13.
The High School Band plays at home football games in the fall and at Town-wide ceremonies for September 11th and Memorial Day. The full orchestra also plays at graduation.
Every other year (odd years), the entire High School music department takes a weekend trip to the Heritage Music Festival in New York City. The students spend a weekend in New York performing and listening to other high school groups. They also attend a Broadway performance and tour the city. Traditionally, the ensembles have performed very well. The students fundraise to help lower the cost so that as many students as possible can participate. It is a weekend all the students anticipate, and it unites them in the program!