At Burke’s, we regard visual and performing arts as subjects in their own right as well as disciplines that augment and expand what our students learn in other disciplines. The arts—individually and in combination with each other—also provide an important avenue through which we build a sense of self and a sense of community.  In visual art, drama, and music, students gain confidence in concrete individual skills in creative expression, gain appreciation for the arts across history and cultures, and learn to work collaboratively with their peers.

The primary goal of the Upper School Music program is to broaden each student’s musical understanding and appreciation of the creative process both ­­individually and collectively. Students are encouraged to participate fully, challenge their individual abilities, and strive for excellence in practice and performance.

List of 4 items.

  • Fifth Grade

    Throughout the year, fifth graders are scheduled for one period of Music by full class section each rotation and for one period by half section every other rotation, alternating with Drama. The program builds a variety of skills including choral singing, folk dancing, playing Orff ensemble instruments, applying basic principles of music theory, reading music, critical listening, improvisation, and composition. As students transition from Lower to Upper School Music, they continue to broaden their understanding of the fundamental concepts of the expressive arts — rhythm, melody, harmony, texture, and form. A primary goal of the fifth-grade music curriculum is to build students’ confidence and proficiency applying these concepts to musical expression, both independently and in ensemble. 

    Areas of focus during the year include building a diverse vocal repertoire of rounds, descants, and two-part songs; the study of harmonic progressions in compositions based on I–V and I–IV–V chord progressions and the 12-bar Blues form; and mixed meter in contemporary Jazz and traditional Greek folk dance. Fifth-grade performances include the Open Music Studio in the Fall, the Upper School Winter Sing, and a collaborative arts and humanities approach to the study of Ancient Greece culminating with the presentation of our students’ original production of Greek Plays in the spring.
  • Sixth Grade

    Throughout the year, sixth graders are scheduled for one period of Music by full class section each rotation and for one period by half section every other rotation, alternating with Drama. The curricular emphasis is on the development and refinement of skills of creative expression through movement, voice, and composition.

    We begin the year with a music and drama collaborative exploration of Melodrama.  Students create original scenes and compose a film soundtrack utilizing the iPad GarageBand application.

    Starting with an overview of the origins and basic fundamentals of ballet, modern, and jazz, sixth graders study dance with a guest choreographer. We also build a repertoire of traditional and popular styles of choral music to be performed in the Upper School Winter Sing.

    The year continues with the study of American Musical Theatre, exploring the interaction of music, dance, drama, staging, and character development in preparation for our Spring Cabaret. Another key collaborative project within the Sixth-Grade Fine Arts program, this performance is directed by the music and drama teachers in collaboration with the art teacher for set design and a guest choreographer. Students work cooperatively in small groups to create original staged ensembles of selections from Broadway musicals.

    In preparation for the music courses offered in seventh grade, we end the school year with an introduction of music technology and composition skills utilizing the Mac version of GarageBand and the Sibelius notation program.
  • Seventh Grade

    Seventh-grade students complete one required course of music enrichment selected from the following:
    7th Grade Vocal Ensemble: A vocal performance group with a focus on building increased vocal independence and proficiency at singing in 3-part harmony. Students take part in selecting a varied repertoire of a cappella, accompanied, and choreographed selections. Performances include the MLK Jr. Assembly, the Winter Sing, the Spring Vocal Spotlight, singing for the Lower School, and a community service "choir exchange" with the Richmond Senior Center Choir.
    Music Studio: The focus of this class is on the exploration of the relationship of music and film. Utilizing iMovie and GarageBand, students explore the process of developing a story with picture and sound by creating an original film trailer.
  • Eighth Grade

    Music electives are among those available to eighth-grade students. Choices include: 

    Voice: This is a supportive, interactive class for all levels of singing ability. Students practice vocal techniques for proper breath support, to increase their range, and to build their sound. Repertoire is selected to develop students’ range of expression to increase their confidence as performers, and to learn how to prepare for the 8th Grade Musical auditions.

    Varsity Vocal Ensemble: 
    Students are actively involved in selecting, arranging, and rehearsing a repertoire with special emphasis on balanced ensemble singing.  Performances include the Upper School MLK, Jr. Assembly, a Lower School assembly, and the 7/8 Spring Vocal Spotlight.
    Music Jam: Students who play instruments and enjoy singing have the opportunity to “jam” with each other, develop microphone technique, explore songwriting, and compose with GarageBand.

Department Faculty

List of 1 members.

  • Photo of Rachel Allen

    Rachel Allen 

    Upper School Music, 8th Grade Advisor
    415.751.0187, ext. 332
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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