The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 28, 2000


Art and music programs develop students' literacy at Carlisle School

The Carlisle School's fine arts curriculum now includes visual arts, general music, instrumental music and choral music. Some arts activities are interdisciplinary, but the arts staff emphasized in their January 19 presentation before the school committee that their primary goal is to "develop the students' literacy in the arts themselves."


Fine arts coordinator Thomas O'Halloran teaches instrumental music and leads the four Carlisle School bands. He began his presentation by introducing the fine arts staff and reviewing some highlights in the music department, including such events as the performance of the senior band at the O'Rourke Land dedication. He also noted that there were a total of 273 instrumentalists and vocalists in grades 4 to 8 who performed at the school's winter concert in December to a packed audience.

The beginning band is made up of fourth and fifth graders who have just begun playing their instruments. The junior band is composed of fourth through eighth graders who have progressed beyond the beginning level. The senior band is made up of fifth through eighth graders who have shown proficiency on their instruments through an audition process. The jazz band includes interested senior band members and middle school students who play other instruments such as piano or bass.

Angela DiPace leads the middle school chorus for grades 6 and 7, now in its second year. DiPace said that,as well as doubling in size to 22 members, the chorus has improved in quality since last year. Several students will audition for the Northeast Junior District Chorus. The Carlisle chorus will perform a concert at the school on February 17, along with the jazz band and some fourth- and fifth-grade singers.

DiPace also teaches general music to students in grades K-3. Scheduling changes have allowed for an increase in music time to two 30-minute periods each week for those students.

One interdisciplinary project that DiPace described was a Unitied Nations Day celebration. Each second-grade class learned about the art and music of a different continent and then shared what they had learned with the other classes.

In the past, third-grade students had learned to play the recorder as a unit in their music classes. This year, DiPace said, she is using the recorders throughout the year to reinforce the concepts that the children are learning.

Catherine Pringle teaches general music to students in grades 4­6. Pringle, new this year, has a background in opera performance as well as education. She began the year with the musical Basic Training Camp for the fourth graders. They learned about musical sign language and instruments of the orchestra. Pringle said that the fifth graders have been learning about music around the world, starting with America, then moving on to Spain, Germany, Australia and more. The sixth graders have been learning about musical history from Medieval to Renaissance to Baroque and so on, up to modern times.

In the future, Pringle said, she would like to start teaching choral singing in the fourth grade. She suggested teaching one class of general music and one class of choral music each week. She would also like to start an after-school chorus of fifth graders next year.


In presenting the fourth grade's "history of art" slide show, elementary art teacher Courtney Graham explained that the students had used the Kid Pix computer program to draw the pictures. They then recorded information about the artists to narrate the slide show. The project is ongoing, but the finished show will be presented at the arts night in June.

Asked whether the children had difficulty drawing the pictures using only the mouse, Graham responded that she felt it gave them more freedom to try things. Because it is so easy to delete something that doesn't come out the way they want it, they can try again until they are satisfied with the result, she said.

Middle school art teacher David Negrin described some of the interdisciplinary art projects the students had done this year. They have illustrated book jackets for books that they read over the summer, and illustrated words in both French and Spanish. The sixth graders learned how to create volume with shading when they drew the insects they were studying in science. A new unit on art history and architecture is planned for the eighth grade later this year.

Negrin explained that since Carlisle has no industrial arts curriculum, he sees his role as providing a hands-on experience and long-term projects. This year, students in grades 6-8 will be working with stained glass.

Plea for funding

In his report, O'Halloran made a plea for funding to replace worn out large instruments. He explained that the school owns large instruments because they are too expensive for students to rent. Most of the large instruments were purchased in the '80s, he said, and many of them are now beyond repair. Without the large instruments, the selection of music the band can perform becomes limited, he said.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito