CurriculumMatters: December 15-Music

“We are the music makers,  and we are the dreamers of dreams.”

Music was the first love of EAC founder Andrea Riddle. Her earliest memories were of family moments ensconced in music in a variety of forms. Andrea brought her love of music with her when she created EAC, initially in the form of daily singing sessions in classrooms and then later, in the band program she crafted with Dr. Beth Peterson of Ithaca College. “…music is one of the primary vehicles that people have to access emotion, to access beauty, and to express themselves creatively. I have students who all have different modalities and I want them to know that music is an option for them in terms of creative expression and pleasure, delight and peace. I want them to have an education that brings that forward for them…” Andrea, 2004.
At EAC we make music in one form or another every day. Our youngest students are introduced to the music shelves found in every Primary classroom during their very first weeks of school. This is where they can find baskets filled with a variety of rhythm instruments as well as the Montessori Bells.  Children use the Bells to grade and match different tones, as well as to practice the lightness of touch necessary to be able to create a beautiful sound with a mallet.
Primary students learn a repertoire of songs in many different languages. Over time these songs become a shared experience that allows EAC students of all ages to connect with one another.  Even alumni who return after many years are able to join in with our current students to sing songs such as , “This is my school” and “Washing a table.”
Junior Level students begin to focus on musical expression as they learn the recorder and form a choral ensemble.Any student who turns 9 during the academic year is also invited to join the EAC Instrumental Music Program. This involves a weekly trip to the Ithaca College Music School for a formal lesson with an IC music education student. The excitement and camaraderie that is built during the weekly rides to Ithaca College is just one of many in a slew of formative experiences that is fostered in our band program.


Students are invited to join the Beginning Band during the second half of the year. This band meets weekly before school and works towards their first performance at the EAC Spring Concert.

Upper Level and Middle School students continue to perform in choral ensembles as part of their core curriculum. Most students (approximately 90%), also continue to be a part of the EAC band program. Instrumentalists with one year or more of experience form the Junior band and then transition to the Concert Band as they become more proficient. The Big Band is made up of willing Concert Band members and experienced bass, piano and guitar players. The EAC Percussion Ensemble is available to all experienced percussionists beginning at 9 years of age.

Music Director Ryan Zawel welcomes students every morning before school starts for early morning practices and rehearsals. Our facility thus comes to life each day accompanied by students of all ages working together towards a common goal and growing together musically. Within the confines of the band program students experience community much in the same way as they do in their multi-aged classrooms. On a daily basis elder, more experienced musicians have the opportunity to guide and nurture younger instrumentalists, who in the future then become the mentors for those who are younger.

Middle School students continue to have weekly small group and/or individual lessons. They have the additional opportunity to become a Chamber Player and meet after school with Ryan to form small ensembles based on common musical interests,(e.g. jazz combo, vocal ensembles, recording projects, chamber music, etc.). Jam sessions also occur frequently during open work times.

  (Members of Staff Chorus perform.)

(Drumming outside during Andrea Riddle Day celebration.)

The overriding goal of the EAC Music Program is to create life long musicians. The journey towards this goal begins on day one as each EAC student is already considered to be a musician before they walk through our doors!

Since its inception 10 years ago, the EAC Band Program has grown a multitude of musicians. The Ithaca High School band has consistently seen our students in full force in IHS instrumental and choral ensembles and a handful of recent alumni are studying music in college.



The Ithaca Festival Parade (Photo courtesy of the Ithaca Journal).


Recent press has articulated the benefits of music instruction that go beyond the value of music for itself and the opportunities for community building inherent in any school band program.

“New research suggests that the complexity involved in practicing and performing music may help students’ cognitive development. Studies released last month at the Society for Neuroscience meeting here find that music training may increase the neural connections in regions of the brain associated with creativity, decisionmaking, and complex memory, and they may improve a student’s ability to process conflicting information from many senses at once. Research also found that starting music education early can be even more helpful.”                                     Sarah D. Sparks (Education Week 12/9/13)

Lucky for us, at The Elizabeth Ann Clune Montessori School of Ithaca, music is at the core of our every day, in fact, it is the very heartbeat of our school and is, in part, makes EAC such a happy place.