Throughout Westland’s history, the music program has played a central role in creating a sense of community, deepening cross-curricular ties, and developing musicianship. Every child attends music classes with our music specialist several times a week, and music permeates the school experience for everyone on campus.

Like all areas of study at Westland, our music curriculum focuses on learning through hands-on music making. Based on the philosophy and practices of the Orff-Schulwerk method and aligned with the progressive ideas of John Dewey and Jean Piaget, a student’s music education is characterized by moving, speaking, singing, and playing on specially designed “Orff” instruments such as xylophones, metallophones, and glockenspiels.

Co-creators of their musical experience, students learn to problem-solve both as individuals and as members of an ensemble in creating music while they learn to sing as a community as well as to read music and play recorders. The joyful experience of music making is of primary importance and sets the stage for musical literacy skills that are taught in a sequenced and developmentally appropriate way.

With Westland’s social studies–based curriculum, music is another vibrant pathway through which to explore cultures. By learning native music and the significant musical features of different cultures and time periods, students gain perspective and appreciation for the many varieties of expression throughout the world and over time. They also develop a deeper understanding of how and why some traditions came to be. For example, Group 3 students learn sea shanties and their importance to workers at sea in their Harbor Study; later in the year they have elements to compare when they come upon the corn-grinding work songs of the Hopi.

The Westland community (students, teachers, and parents) regularly comes together weekly for school-wide Sings, a time where students, teachers, and parents sing together. Over the years a large repertoire of songs has been passed down to provide a richly shared community experience. Sings also offer a kind of oral newspaper of what’s going on at Westland, where students from each group share experiences, projects, and activities. Parents, siblings, and friends are welcome to attend.