Music is a language of self-expression with exceptional power to reach people through their emotions. Feeling is a powerful incentive for music makers and music listeners to engage. As with any language, there is a vocabulary, a grammar, and a code. At every age Friends School Haverford students are advanced through stages of learning music. As with conventional language, students learn first to listen and understand, then to sing and express themselves, then to read, and finally to write music. Students learn the component parts of songs. They master skills and instruments. They engage in the production of ensemble music and creative composition. It is a joyous adventure!


Nursery School, Pre-School, and Pre-K
“Introduction and Acclimation”


Students are introduced to group music making activities, which include singing, dancing and playing handheld percussion instruments. Students develop a repertoire of loved activities through which they can explore their voices, their movement (gross and fine motor), and their musicality. Group music making, a group activity that doesn’t involve competition, is a valuable way students explore their relationships with one another.


Nursery schoolers begin to use their voice in a way that is different than speaking. They are encouraged to listen to instructions that are sometimes not spoken, but sung. Engagement is the main objective. They may bang or shake things in time with what they are hearing.


Pre-schoolers know some songs, movements or chants and can experience the feeling of proficiency with them. Movement songs become more complex and require gross motor coordination and safe use of personal space.


Pre-kindergarteners imitate vocal patterns and four-beat rhythmic patterns with percussion instruments. They start to move in a more organized dance-like fashion.


Kindergarten and First Grade
“Mastery and Transition”


Students at this level are accustomed to group singing and motivated to learn new and more complex songs. They sing confidently and are proficient in most classroom musical activities. Kindergarteners are transitioning into elementary level and first graders are being introduced to the cognitive/representational aspect of reading music notation.


Kindergarteners develop a large repertoire of songs they love to sing. They are proud of their independence. Kindergarteners create their own rhythms to be copied by their classmates. They enjoy participating in line dance activities. Kindergarteners are introduced to the concept of “reading” rhythms represented by physical objects placed in patterns before them. This is an exciting first step toward reading notes on a printed page.


First graders eschew simple songs for folk music, Motown, and pop songs. This music introduces them to the concepts of verse, chorus, bridge, and instrumentals. They learn some beginning “modular” dance steps that can be learned one at a time and linked together into longer sequences. First-graders begin reading simple rhythmic notation.


Second, Third, and Fourth-Grade
“Cognition and Notation”


Students at this level love to sing independently through a large list of song arrangements. Students start to train their voices for accurate, in-tune singing and range expansion. Students are introduced to and become comfortable reading music notation using the “Recorder from the Beginning” series. Students begin to develop the listening skills necessary to play instrumentally in a group. Students become accustomed to playing their part while listening to other parts that are different.


Second graders begin playing recorder and reading recorder music. This involves a new set of symbols that must be decoded, converted into fingerings on the instrument, and played in time with the accompaniment. They sing five-note scales with the piano seeking to match pitch.


Third graders having played recorder for a year, expand their note range and add more intricate melodic phrases to their playing. They are exposed to polyphony through the use of two-part recorder songs. They expand their singing range to a full major scale.


Fourth graders have facility with music notation and are confident readers. They read quarter and eighth note patterns and are able to adjust and correct mistakes without stopping. They can sing a major scale mostly in tune with and without the piano providing the underlying pitch.


Middle School
“Ensemble and Musicianship”


Middle schoolers trade their recorders in for marimbas (wooden diatonic keyboard instruments). Students at this level memorize rhythmically complex arrangements of songs based on the Shona music of Zimbabwe. This music presents a unique opportunity for young players to develop the concentration, cooperation, and listening skills that are essential for ensemble playing. They further develop their fine motor skills and their ability to play while being rhythmically-aware of the overall group. As part of Kwaya Marimba, they become adept enough with their music to concertize in public at venues such as The Philadelphia Zoo, The Barnes Museum, The Please Touch Museum and other local schools. Seventh and eighth- graders may choose a music elective each semester.


Fifth graders begin playing three-part marimba songs that are spontaneously arranged by the teacher. This facilitates a new level of listening necessary to play polyphonic music. They sing and move to “current” pop songs with which they may be familiar. Fifth-graders sing two-part songs and/or add backing vocals.


Sixth graders start playing marimba tunes that are arranged more closely to what they will play in Kwaya Marimba. These arrangements are memorized and involve four or five parts. Students at this level sing in tune and sometimes experiment with singing in harmony.


Seventh graders begin playing in Kwaya Marimba. They rehearse twice a week and by spring semester have developed a forty-minute set of music. They choose music electives and may explore rhythmic improvisation using African drums or composition using piano keyboards and digital audio software.


Eighth graders are experienced Kwaya Marimba players. They crave more and more difficult tunes. They are the leaders of the group both musically and logistically. They help teach new members their parts and seek to learn all the other parts as well. Eighth graders can seamlessly substitute for absent players and frequently improvise during concerts.


Students, Parents, Faculty, and Administration

“Community Music Making”


We make music as a community. We celebrate Grandfriends Day, Winter Break and the last day of school with all-school sing-alongs. From the youngest students to the oldest adults, all join in the fun of singing out and learning new songs as well!






Friends School Haverford Kwaya Marimba


Kwaya Marimba performs compositions inspired by the Shona music of Zimbabwe. These pieces consist of interlocking rhythmic patterns that function like a choir’s soprano, alto, tenor, and bass sections. In fact, Kwaya is the Bantu word for choir.

One of the many benefits of playing marimba is that all of the notes are physically organized and laid out before you. Low notes are large and to your left, high notes are small and to your right. You don’t have to associate a tone with a seemingly unrelated fingering as on a wind instrument. 

Kwaya Marimba Tour Dates and Locations:
The Friends School Haverford Kwaya Marimba Group is going on tour during the 2018-19 school year. Be sure to catch one – or all – of their performances.

April 4, 2018 | WRTI: 1509 Cecil B. Moore Avenue, 3rd Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19121
April 12, 2018 | Friends Central Lower School: 228 Old Gulph Rd, Wynnewood, PA 19096

Friends Central School: Ithan Avenue & Conestoga Road, Rosemont, PA 19010
Porch at 30th Street Station: 2955 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19104
Please Touch Museum: 4231 Avenue of the Republic, Philadelphia, PA 19131
Family Picnic at Friends School Haverford: 851 Buck Lane, Haverford, PA 19041

The Barnes Foundation: 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19130
The Agnes Irwin School: Ithan Avenue & Conestoga Road, Rosemont, PA 19010
Porch at 30th Street Station: 2955 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19104
Dream Flag Project at National Constitution Center: 525 Arch St, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Family Picnic at Friends School Haverford: 851 Buck Lane, Haverford, PA 19041

For more information about these tour dates, please contact Ed Nardi.