Engagement in a Crowden School classroom

The academic curriculum at Crowden instills in its students an ability to apply collaborative, creative, and critical-thinking skills to their studies. Small class sizes and close teacher-student interactions foster independence and autonomy; group projects reinforce the collaborative, purposeful elements of the chamber music curriculum. As with the music instruction, high expectations for students are accompanied by meaningful guidance in achieving those goals.

Crowden students study a full range of academic subjects, including Art, PE, and (in the Upper School) French. Throughout the grades, students deepen their subject mastery while developing their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.


The Crowden School Art Salon

The Art program at Crowden spans a vast range of approaches. Students learn not only drawing and painting skills but sculpture, mapping, papier-maché, clay, collage, site installation, mural, perspective, photography, wearable art, wire work, and much more. Students also gain exposure to eminent practitioners in various fields of Art, and take field trips to exhibitions of note in the Bay Area.


Brad Johnson, English Teacher

The English program aims to make close, attentive, appreciative readers and capable, expressive writers. In each of their years at Crowden, students read full length novels while furthering their understanding of usage, grammar, and vocabulary. In the Upper School they read Shakespeare in each grade; as eighth graders, they participate in college-seminar-level discussions of challenging literature.


History at the Crowden School

The History program follows the general outlines of the California state curriculum, asking students to explore through projects and discussions the topics under consideration. Fourth grade history focuses on California; fifth grade covers U.S. history up through the Civil War. In sixth grade, prehistory and antiquity form the subjects of exploration, and in seventh the medieval empires of Africa and Asia lay the groundwork for examining the Renaissance, the technological revolution, and the Age of Enlightenment in Europe. Eighth grade returns to a study of US history, from the colonial period to the present. Geography features prominently throughout the curriculum.


Math at the Crowden School

The Math program develops an early foundation of number sense and calculation strategies in the fourth grade, then builds upon it so that students complete a course of pre-algebra during sixth grade and algebra in the seventh. Differentiated instruction in the eighth grade allows some students to strengthen their understanding of algebra, while others proceed to, and often through, geometry.

Physical Education

PE at the Crowden School

Physical Education is required of all students at Crowden. Through active participation and instruction, students learn not just the rules of games and the skills required of them, but the equally necessary elements of teamwork, awareness, confidence, and respect. Many P.E. activities such as street safety, which is an integral part of the P.E. curriculum, take place off campus.


Science at the Crowden School

Starting with a general appreciation for the world around us, the Science curriculum teaches students to observe, measure, record, and reflect upon their environment. Fourth grade begins in the garden, looking at soil, minerals, plants, and animals, before branching out into electricity. Fifth grade explores weather, water, and the human body. Building from that basis, sixth grade covers earth sciences (geology and oceanography) and nutrition. Seventh and eighth graders study integrated units of biology, chemistry, and physics.


French at the Crowden School

The French program, which meets three times a week in grades six through eight, covers material corresponding to the first year of high school French. Class work is supplemented with online materials for reinforcement and review.


Chamber music is at the heart of a Crowden School education

Ensemble music is at the heart of a Crowden education. Through the study of chamber music and orchestra literature for strings and piano, our students develop the ability to work independently while interacting within a group in a thoughtful, communicative, and supportive way. Crowden’s chamber music ensemble classes are complemented by instrument and musicianship classes to strengthen each student’s musical core. Additionally, each student participates in chorus twice a week and music history class once a week.

Instrument Classes

Instrument classes at Crowden School

Instrument Classes develop the ability to:

  • Approach technical challenges efficiently and understand how to use practice time to the best possible advantage. Many practice strategies are carefully explored, including but not limited to slow practice, use of the metronome, and playing in varied rhythms. (For string players, this includes specific but varied bowings at different tempi, and specific left-hand games/exercises.)
  • Support the instrument (or the body, if seated at the piano) in a balanced way for maximum technical efficiency, agility, and optimal sound production.
  • Play with facile yet stable left-hand position for string players; a solid frame in all positions, accurate but flowing shifting, ability to hear and to measure across intervals. For pianists, this includes appropriate articulation and voicing, accuracy, and fluidity, with ample finger strength and correct hand positions.
  • Play with a facile bow hold and technique in a variety of bow strokes (detaché, martelé, spiccato, etc); use a straight bow, understand how to divide the bow, understand the use of bow speed in relation to pressure and distance from the bridge; use a variety of bow strokes in a range of dynamics.
  • Play all chromatic, major and minor scales from memory (for string players: in tune and eventually in at least three octaves) with a variety of bowings and/or rhythms.
  • Play with vibrato at various speeds as appropriate to the music (strings).
  • Make a supported sound.
  • Shape phrases.
  • Play in a variety of musical styles and characters.
  • For violinists: read the alto clef fluently and play viola.

Chamber Music Ensembles

Chamber music at the Crowden School

Ensemble Classes develop the ability to:

  • Play accurately and expressively as a group: breathe together; use eye contact and body language to give/take appropriate cues; communicate mood, and sound quality.
  • Learn how to rehearse efficiently; how to play in tune (in different temperaments for string or mixed string /piano groups), compromise/discuss diplomatically and respectfully, phrase as an ensemble, tackle technical and musical challenges as a group, make musical decisions about phrasing and style, decide when to lead and when to follow, play out or blend; balance the various voices in the ensemble with inner voices as the core of the sound.
  • Read a score.
  • Play with character and an understanding of style appropriate to the period/composer.


Orchestra at the Crowden School

Orchestra Classes develop the ability to:

  • Participate actively in sectionals, rehearsals, and concerts (by making eye contact and accurately following the conductor’s cue, playing with the character and articulation the conductor has indicated, notating orchestral parts accurately, and practicing and preparing meticulously and adequately at home).
  • Prepare for an audition or concert through home practice and sectionals.
  • Lead a section as a principal player or blend as a section player.
  • Play with character and an understanding of style appropriate to the period/composer.


Chorus at the Crowden SchoolChorus Classes develop the ability to:

  • Sing with fine technique (good vocal support, appealing sound quality).
  • Fine-tune the ear; recognize intervals; sight sing.
  • Further explore ensemble skills.
  • Play with character and an understanding of style appropriate to the period/composer.
  • Demonstrate appropriate conduct during rehearsals and performances (communicate respectfully with the conductor and other students, maintain proper decorum, take bows together, enter and exit the performance area in an orderly manner, etc.).

Musicianship and Composition

Musicianship and Composition at the Crowden SchoolMusicianship and Composition Classes develop the ability to:

  • Identify and accurately notate (in student’s own compositions) key signatures, time signatures, clefs, modes, intervals, dynamics, chords, and chord progressions.
  • Identify and employ basic compositional forms and techniques.
  • Analyze basic musical forms.

(N.B.: Many of our eighth grade students have scored well on the AP Music Theory exam upon completion of Level V.)

Music History

Fifth Grade Music History Williamsburg Project at the Crowden School

Music History Classes develop the ability to:

  • Become a sophisticated listener.
  • Identify various periods and styles of music with a thorough understanding of historic context/perspective (concurrent developments in religion, politics, philosophy, technology, and art, for example).
  • Recognize and identify individual composers’ contributions and innovations.
  • Inform student’s own playing and approach to music of various styles.

The Crowden School

A coeducational day school for grades 4–8, the Crowden School provides a distinguished education with chamber music at its core.

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