The music program at Burke’s involves every student, developing her inherent musicianship and love of music. Burke’s understands the vital role music plays in the growth of the whole child: its contributions to the intellectual, emotional, social and physical realms of learning. Through “hands-on” music-making, each student is given a wide variety of experiences in which to learn about, appreciate and prepare for a lifelong involvement in the performing arts, as both performer and appreciative, knowledgeable audience.
Music is part of the fabric of everyday life at Burke's, often integrated with classroom themes and subject areas. Spontaneous singing is often heard as you walk the school grounds. At whole school gatherings, singing and dancing draw the community closer. At Burke’s, music welcomes the year, celebrates events, and honors passages in time.
Each Lower School (LS) class participates in music twice a week in the cozy LS Music Room. Just entering the room is a treat: seeing shelves filled with instruments from around the world, "Orff" xylophones, the Burke's Chinese Lions, and more! The music teacher's art is to balance and build a "spiral curriculum" that introduces, strengthens, and refines skills and understandings. This spiral draws from a variety of music pedagogies, including the Orff and Kodaly approaches.
The Orff philosophy (Orff-Schulwerk) combines speech and poetry; movement, dance and drama; songs and games; and work with basic instruments. The Kodaly viewpoint places singing at the foundation of musical development. Its philosophy proposes that a clear, sequential musical development in the formative years will foster lifelong skills in singing, literacy and notation, and appreciation.
Burke's ensures students experience a diversity of cultures, time periods, and styles in music, in alignment with the National and California Standards. Each student contributes according to her own ability in a nurturing environment where the rewards include growing confidence in one's individual skills and the pleasure of making music with others.

Department Specialist

List of 1 members.

  • Photo of Lisa Mandelstein

    Lisa Mandelstein 

    Lower School Music Specialist, National Board Certified Teacher
    415.751.0187, ext. 322
    University of Kansas - Bachelors of Music Therapy
    University of Kansas - Bachelors of Music Education

List of 5 items.

  • Kindergarten

    How do I help make the circle? How can I move safely AND joyfully? How many ways can I play a pair of sticks, a drum, a tambourine? How can I make my voice softer, louder, higher, lower? What am I hearing? Do I want to lead? Can I say yes to a new partner?

    Kindergarteners participate in two 30-minute sessions per week to explore music through a variety of games, percussion instruments, folk dances, stories and listening selections. Additionally, they join in the community singing and dances that are a vital part of weekly LS assemblies; all-school celebrations of Halloween, Diwali and Thanksgiving; the LS Holiday Sing Along; and spontaneous gatherings throughout the year.


    Strand 1: Building musical readiness through discovering CONTRASTS:

    • Loud - quiet
    • Fast - slow
    • High - low
    • Steady beat - no beat - rhythm
    • Accompaniment - a cappella
    • Whole - part (form)
    • Instrumental timbres - wood, metal, skins
    • Singing/speaking/calling/whispering voices; vocal inflection and expression
    Strand 2: Learning and Practicing the Conventions of Group Participation:

    • Use of space - making lines, circles; personal space, moving in space
    • Taking turns - in speaking, playing instruments, games, song leading
    • Working with others - holding hands, choosing and changing partners
    • Taking care of instruments - voice, body, percussion
  • First Grade

    How can I keep the steady beat? Is what I’m hearing the beat or the rhythm of the words? How can we write down what we hear? What makes that instrument sound like it does? What do I enjoy listening to? How can I be an appreciative audience at a performance?

    First graders participate in two 40-minute music sessions per week. They continue to explore music through moving, imagining, laughing, singing, and playing their way through an expanded variety of games, percussion instruments, folk dances and listening selections. The girls begin to read simple melodic and rhythmic music notation. They become more experienced singers and dancers during weekly LS assemblies and other traditional events such as the Opening All School Assembly, Halloween, Diwali and Thanksgiving celebrations; and the LS Holiday Sing Along.
    Music Sharings: First grade parents have the opportunity to join their daughter for a morning in the music room. Parents often comment on how much growth they see: the first graders are reading music from the music staff, singing on their own with freedom and ease, and accompanying themselves with instruments, some handmade in the Burke’s Makery!


    In addition to strengthening and continuing the kindergarten skills, first grade materials are chosen to introduce:
    • Combining beat and rhythmic concepts; division of the beat
    • Beginning rhythmic notation (quarter note, eighth note, and quarter rest)
    • Beginning melodic notation (hand signs and names for so, mi, and la pitches; music staff lines, spaces and note placement)
    • Basic accompaniment skills with a variety of instruments
    • Concepts of musical form, phrase, and pattern (through song, dance)
    • Expressive elements and a beginning basic music vocabulary
    Integrated themes and projects may include:
    Instruments of the Orchestra with Makery Music Instrument Building and a field trip to the San Francisco Symphony; Space and Oceans (science); SEL (Social-Emotional Learning) and other school-wide projects.
  • Second Grade

    Half notes, whole notes and do, re, mi! Can I figure out this melody? “Ear Detectives” ask questions, expanding listening skills and world music literacy. Is my voice on pitch, high, low, light or heavy? How do music and dance fit into cultures and history?

    Second graders participate in two 40-minute sessions per week. They continue to develop their music reading and learn new games, dances, songs and instrumental pieces to challenge and build their skills. They are active singers at the weekly LS assemblies, in the LS Holiday Sing Along, and in other gatherings throughout the year.
    Second grade is the first year for the girls to participate in the LS Spring Concert! Past concerts have explored the music of Bali, Ghana, John Henry and the Transcontinental Railroad, Latin America, and Irish Music. Each year the girls are excited to learn what their focus will be! The final concert sharing showcases all the girls’ music skills, ensemble work and imagination.

    In addition to strengthening and continuing the kindergarten and first grade skills, second graders study:
    • Rhythmic notation (half and whole notes), time signatures of 2/4 and 4/4, tempo
    • Pentatonic scale, pitch symbols and patterns (mi, re, do)
    • Construction of rhythmic patterns for improvisation
    • Singing two-part rounds and partner songs
    • Choreographing in small groups to show form and phrase length

    Integrated themes and projects may include:
    Music for the 2nd Grade Play, Three Sisters Corn Songs, Westward Expansion through song and dance, Famous women in music; SEL (Social-Emotional Learning) and other school wide projects that vary from year to year.
  • Third Grade

    Why does the treble clef start with E? How can I show musical respect and why? How can I seal those recorder holes and why does the left hand go on top? In what ways are strong Chinese Lion Dance rhythms and fierce “look alive” dancing important to me?

    Third graders attend music for two 40-minute sessions per week. They are active singers (and sometimes leaders) at the weekly Lower School (LS) assemblies, in the LS Holiday Sing Along, and in other gatherings throughout the year. They will participate for a second year in the Second-Fourth Grade LS Spring Concert, with an expanded repertoire that showcases their skills and teamwork. Third grade brings in the Lunar New Year at Burke’s and also at the nearby Richmond Neighborhood Center with fully developed performances that honor tradition with playful masterful dance, music and theater.

    In addition to strengthening and continuing previous grades’ skills, third graders study:

    • Introduction to triple meter; 16th note rhythms
    • Pentatonic scale patterns and note names of the treble clef
    • Contrapuntal texture and expanded accompaniments
    • Introduction to recorders
    • Traditional Chinese Lion Dance rhythms and dance (in conjunction with LS Theater)

    Integrated themes and projects may include:
    Native Cultures of California, Chinese and Chinese-American Music (Lion Dance and Music), Recycling (science), SEL (Social-Emotional Learning), and other school-wide projects that vary from year to year.
  • Fourth Grade

    What musical traditions are important to me? How will I take leadership? How do I play this recorder (fingers, notes, responsibility and practicing)? How can I strengthen and extend my vocal range? Oh yes, shifting chord changes and diatonic scales!

    In the final year of Lower School (LS) Music, the music class time expands to 90 minutes each week. Fourth graders focus on musical leadership as they take on leading the weekly LS assemblies and become singing role models for the younger grades. The fourth grade girls help choose the songs for the LS Holiday Sing-Along, and lead during the concert as either narrators or accompanists. They also are the leaders of the LS Spring Concert.
    A strong focus in fourth grade is on playing recorder. The girls receive a soprano recorder of their own that they bring home to practice after successfully playing their first five songs. Using the instrumental techniques of recorder to strengthen their notation and improvisation skills, the girls solidify and extend their musical learning, setting a foundation for future participation and growth in Upper School Music and beyond.


    In addition to strengthening and continuing previous grades’ skills, new concepts include:
    • Syncopation
    • Pentatonic and Diatonic melodies in the keys of C and G major; A and E minor
    • Pitch names of the treble clef and the fingerings for these on the recorder
    • Two-chord accompaniments
    • Choreographing in small groups to show rhythm, melody, phrase length, and different forms such as rondo, AABB, and theme and variations
    Integrated themes and projects may include:
    Native cultures of California, “Island of the Blue Dolphins,” Sea Chanteys, Songs of the Gold Rush, Songs of the Transcontinental Railroad, SEL (Social-Emotional Learning) and other school wide projects that vary from year to year.
Burke's mission is to educate, encourage and empower girls. Our school combines academic excellence with an appreciation for childhood so that students thrive as learners, develop a strong sense of self, contribute to community, and fulfill their potential, now and throughout life.


An independent K–8 school for girls
7070 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94121
Phone: 415.751.0177 Fax: 415.666.0535
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