Arts Vision

Friends School of Minnesota believes that the opportunity to respond to, create, and perform in the arts is essential to the development of the whole person. Education includes learning through music, drama, dance, and visual arts, as well as learning to enjoy those disciplines for their own sake. We also believe the arts are an integral part of our humanity and our cultural history; therefore, the arts are an integral part of our school’s culture and our students’ personal and social development.

Six Guiding Principles of Arts Education at FSMN 

  1. Experiential. Active, hands-on, concrete experience is the most effective method of arts education. Students are immersed in the most direct experience possible.
  2. Holistic. Children learn best when they encounter whole ideas, events, and materials within a purposeful context. Understanding the integral role the arts have both in history and in human culture enhances appreciation.
  3. Authentic. Real, rich, complex ideas and materials are at the heart of the curriculum. Whenever possible, students’ interests are incorporated into classroom activities. This may lead to spontaneous changes in studies and influence curriculum. 
  4. Expressive. To develop expressiveness students must be involved in meaningful arts experiences. Many opportunities are provided throughout the arts curriculum for students to share their work with a variety of audiences.
  5. Collaborative. Cooperative learning in the arts is more effective than competitive and star-centered approaches. Students’ skills are enriched through collaboration with other students and across classroom grade levels and curriculum areas.
  6. Challenging. Students learn best when faced with genuine challenges, choices, and responsibilities in their learning, and when their efforts to achieve are supported.


Students in black singing on risers at O'Shaughennesy Auditorium, University of St. CatherineLinkages

FSMN seeks to integrate arts education with other curriculum areas, which greatly enhances students’ experiential learning. We also embrace the school-wide commitment to cooperative learning. A portion of the art specialist’s time (30% FTE) is dedicated to visual art integration, allowing for deep cross-curricular connections to be made.

Arts education at Friends School incorporates the values and spirit of our Quaker mission. Public performance, as in the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration, is viewed as service which supports and strengthens unity within the school and the broader community. FSMN’s multicultural goals are also supported through exposure to the arts of diverse cultures and the artistic achievement of individual artists.

We offer additional arts experiences to lower schoolers through many Open Lab activities, to middle schoolers through extracurricular activities (5-6 and 7-8 drama clubs, art club, and crafts club), and to all students through the after school music program. FSMN’s summer program offers a range of individual classes in all of the arts for grades 2-8, plus an early childhood integrated arts program to grades pre-K-3; faculty in the summer program are practicing artists who also teach. Financial aid equivalent to a family’s tuition aid is offered for all fee-based programs during the year; financial aid of up to 50% of tuition is offered to all families in the summer.

Friends School understands the importance of building a strong arts curriculum. Our 2014 addition to the building included a new art room built for the unique needs of studio art across all grades. The art specialist position includes a 30% FTE dedicated to arts integration across the curriculum. The art specialist works with teachers to find areas where their curricula intersect so that students experience a more meaningful connection with materials and a deeper learning experience. Arts integration happens both during the regularly scheduled art time and outside of that time. In cases where the time is scheduled outside of the regular art period, the classroom teacher and the art specialist teach together and learn from one another, thus also serving as professional development for both teachers.

In order to successfully meet the music benchmarks established for FSMN, general music education instruction time was increased starting in the 2012-2013 school year. An additional thirty minutes per week of musical instruction time was added to grades K-3. Lower school student now attend music class for thirty minutes, three times per week. Equipment, including a professionally restored Mason and Hamlin grand piano, a new Yamaha studio piano, concert risers and acoustical shells, and a classroom playback sound system, were purchased. The new equipment enhances student practice, study, and performance.



Educational methods for teaching music at FSMN include sequential instruction in singing, percussion, Orff instruments, recorder, and music theory. Kodály theory and practice are incorporated in lesson plans. Recorder and Orff instruments support the development of dexterity and pitch. Percussion, circle games, and dance motivate students and develop rhythm skills. Written work and classroom study introduce students to music notation and enable them to improve their skills at their own pace. Percussion, Orff, and recorder practice and composition exercises support the study of musical notation and theory. Appreciation of the diversity of world music is encouraged by the music selected for study, which is taught in its cultural and historical context.

Participating in school musical dramas, operas, and community performance events motivate students to develop self-expression, confidence, and social and performance skills. Music is also used for community building. Students continue to work on music goals throughout their education at FSMN. We recognize that students develop differently, so specific goals and expectations are modified to meet students’ special interests and needs. Lessons are supported by practice and performance. Students are encouraged to reach beyond basic music education goals through opportunities for further study in sight reading, research, composition, practice, and performance. Middle school students may choose to earn the grade of Passing with Honors by proposing and completing extracurricular work. Students who take instrumental music lessons outside the school are encouraged to bring their instruments into the classroom. Students in seventh and eighth grade participate in the FSMN annual graduation ceremony. Student sing, play instrument, and help lead the service though music.


  • Enjoyment of expressive singing
  • Memorizing simple folk songs in unison
  • Introduction to singing solfege
  • Songs taught in foreign languages
  • Introduction to hand bells
  • Learning to count and play simple rhythms on percussion instruments
  • Movement to steady beats, circle games, and simple dance movements
  • Listening to world music in both ethnic and classical traditions and developing appreciation for different music styles
  • Performing for classmates and the FSMN community, learning to follow musical direction, playing and singing together
  • Drawing to music

First and Second Grade

  • Further development of expressive singing
  • Pitch matching exercises begin with emphasis on minor third intervals and pentatonic scales
  • More songs taught in foreign languages
  • Modally hand signals added to solfege
  • Dramatic and rhythmic choral reading
  • Reading simple rhythms including whole, quarter, and eighth notes
  • Rhythms practiced on percussion instruments in 2/4, 3/4 and 4/4 meters
  • Learning music vocabulary including words dealing with melody, beat, dynamics, and style
  • Further work with handbells
  • Identifying musical instruments by sight and sound
  • Listening to contemporary and world music and identifying instruments, style, and origin to develop listening skills and music appreciation
  • Beginning folk dance movements including circle games and line dance
  • Performing with a conductor for classmates and the FSMN community
  • Evaluating own performance through discussion after watching a video recording of the concert
  • Drawing to music

Third and Fourth Grade

  • Expressive singing continues with partner songs, rounds, and ostinatos
  • Emphasis on pitch matching increases
  • Introduction to reading melody on the staff
  • Understanding meter and time signatures
  • Reading and performing rhythmic patterns including triplets, combinations of eighth and sixteenth notes
  • Percussion studies include traditional rhythms and rhythms of ethnic origin
  • Recorder practice begins
  • Composing simple three to four part arrangements on Orff instruments in small groups
  • Creating dramatic musical presentations with rhythmic poetry and/or prose
  • Performing with a conductor for classmates and the FSMN community
  • Evaluating own performance through discussion after watching a video recording of the concert
  • Listening to world music in both classical and folk traditions to enhance music appreciation and develop listening skills
  • Drawing to music including rhythmic and melodic influences 

Middle School

  • Developing vocal skills singing in chorus and small ensembles
  • Introduction of choral music with two and three parts
  • Developing proficiency following a conductor in choral and instrumental ensembles
  • Recorder studies advance
  • Developing music reading skills, identifying time and key signatures, knowing absolute note names, identifying harmonic intervals and rhythmic patterns
  • Expanding musical vocabulary and symbol identification
  • Composing melodies and rhythms, experimenting with familiar patterns, writing and performing these compositions
  • Gaining understanding of the relationships among dance, theater, and music through collaborative projects
  • Developing an appreciation for the diversity of classical and folk world music through listening and study
  • Learning some traditional and contemporary dance and choreography
  • Studying musicals and opera
  • Introduction to music history
  • Researching, listening critically, and presenting music of their preference, frequently popular music
  • Evaluating their own and others’ performances
  • Advanced independent study to earn the grade of Passing with Honors
  • Integrating students’ private music lessons in the classroom and in performance
  • Composing with harmonies
  • Drawing to music and studying the historical relationship between music and visual arts


Music Benchmarks

By the end of fourth grade students should be able to 

  • Sing with good posture, projection, and attention to pitch in unison and rounds
  • Sing with clear articulation in English and at least two foreign languages
  • Memorize song lyrics to a varied repertoire of music
  • Play rhythmic music on hand percussion instruments, demonstrating skills of focused response, rhythm, ensemble sensitivity, and the ability to follow musical direction
  • Comprehend the use of whole, quarter, eighth, and sixteenth notes and corresponding rests
  • Read, perform, and systematically count simple rhythms in different time signatures
  • Use music vocabulary including words such as beat, melody, and time signature, and identify common Western and international instruments
  • Play melodic patterns on Orff instruments and recorder
  • Create and compose simple melodies and percussion patterns
  • Dance and move rhythmically in unison with classmates in traditional and ethnic dance styles, as well as freely and spontaneously to popular music
  • Collaborate and cooperate with classmates and actively contribute to musical performances
  • Comment on their own performance using music vocabulary to seek improvement
  • Appreciate the diversity of the world’s classical and folk music
  • Understand the role that music plays in building community

By the end of eighth grade students should be able to 

  • Demonstrate improvement in posture, articulation, pitch, and projection and sing in two or three-part harmony
  • Play instrumental music on a variety of percussion and melodic instruments, demonstrating focused response, rhythm, dexterity, tone, articulation, and ensemble sensitivity
  • Demonstrate proficiency at following a conductor while performing both choral and instrumental music
  • Read and write music—identify time and key signatures, rhythm patterns, absolute note names, and melodic intervals
  • Demonstrate a basic understanding and awareness of non-Western musical systems
  • Recognize differences between Western music theory and other musical systems
  • Improvise, embellish, accompany, harmonize, experiment with familiar patterns and create musical variations
  • Compose, transcribe, and perform original melodies and rhythms
  • Collaborate, cooperate, and contribute in an ensemble
  • Listen critically to music and assess their performance and the performance of others using music vocabulary
  • Understand the interactive relationship among music, dance, drama, and other artistic disciplines and the integral role music plays in history and human culture
  • Demonstrate increased music literacy and an appreciation for the diversity of the world’s classical and folk music by identifying the place of origin, influences, evolution, instrumentation, and composers of various music styles