Songwriting & Storytelling

Burke’s students are exposed to a wide array of arts with an emphasis on helping to see themselves as artists, and building confidence in their unique creative vision.
In 7th grade all students take music, photography, sewing, drama, and visual arts, and rotate through all 5 options. In 8th grade students can join the Yearbook team or choose sewing, photography, drama, or songwriting until the whole grade comes together to work on the Eighth Grade Musical in March.

Last year, a new Songwriting elective was launched that focused on the importance of storytelling and being able to share our stories with others. The class uses an independent creative approach, where the teacher acts as a coach and a guide, providing toolboxes for the students to explore the medium and learn, while also building their skillset. 

Rachel Allen, the Upper School Music Teacher says, “Music electives, especially in seventh and eighth grade are designed as a place for students to find their voices, explore how music can help be a storytelling tool and whether they want to tell those stories with or without words.”

The class begins with students writing past, present, and future letters to themselves as inspiration for their songs. Students are very creative and varied in their approaches: some students use verses and choruses, while others went to GarageBand to evoke the feeling before they began writing lyrics. Students learn the foundations of crafting a song, with or without lyrics, how to use GarageBand and by the end of the class, have a finished recording of their own song. 

Regardless of their musical background, students have the opportunity to broaden their skills. Classically trained students are enjoying learning different musical styles, such as jazz and rock. The class also allows students who may not consider themselves musicians, the opportunity to use their creativity to tell their own unique stories, and learn from the challenge of the songwriting process. 

Rachel Allen’s core belief is that “I want everyone to feel like no matter where they are in their skill level, that they can create a song. It can be as simple as writing a poem, and the student can get support to create a melody and chords. It can be a student who already plays an instrument, and they can receive guidance in production and using technology. It’s not prescriptive, the elective is formulated so that anyone can come in, and say, ‘with the skills and knowledge that I have, I can write a song.’ That empowerment piece is important.”
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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.

Burke’s

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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