< Back
You are here  >   Home  >  Belmont Public Schools News

Belmont Public Schools News

Grade 3-5 Instrumental Music Program Changes

Earlier this fall the Department of Visual and Performing Arts completed its seven-year curriculum review cycle and presented a new Plan of Action to the School Committee. Through this process the department identified several opportunities to strengthen specific programs, making them more effective for students and more efficient to operate. The Grade 3-5 Instrumental Music (Band and Orchestra) program was identified as a high priority for modification.

Over the years we have seen more students leave the instrumental music program prematurely than we believe we should. Decades of research in education and neuroscience points to the intellectual, academic and social-emotional benefits of instrumental music study. We are confident that these changes to the music program will promote more long-term participation in this important educational experience, so that more students will enjoy the benefits of studying music and learning to play an instrument.

To provide further clarity, here is a breakdown of the changes we are making and how they will affect each grade level.

Grade CURRENT Music Instruction Offered 2017-18 Music Instruction Offered


General Music (30 minutes/week)



General Music (60 minutes/week)



General Music (60 minutes/week)


Optional String Lesson (30 minutes/week) w/participation fee

Deferred to Grade 4


General Music (60 minutes/week)


Optional String Lesson(30 minutes/week) w/participation fee


Optional Band Instrument Lesson (30 minutes/week) w/participation fee

Deferred to Grade 5


General Music (100 minutes/week)

*General Music (100 minutes/week) + Chorus Rehearsal (100 minutes/week)

Optional String Lesson(50 minutes/week) w/participation fee

*String Lessons (100 minutes/week) + Orchestra Rehearsal (100 minutes/week) w/participation fee

Optional Band Instrument Lesson (50 minutes/week) w/participation fee

*Wind/Percussion Lessons(100 minutes/week) + Band Rehearsal(100 minutes/week) w/participation fee

*Students will choose one of these three options in the fall.

As you can see, the biggest change is the delayed start to Instrumental Music. By delaying our starting grade by one year, we are able to vastly improve the level of instruction we offer in Grade 5 – offering four times as much instrumental music instruction as the current model. We predict that this will result in better retention in the instrumental music program and higher levels of achievement by the end of Grade 5 for all music students as compared to our current model. This puts our program in line with most other successful school music programs, including the Lexington Public Schools. Where our program will differ from theirs is that our 5th graders will receive 200 minutes per week of instrumental music, whereas students in Lexington only receive one 30-minute lesson per week in Grade 5.

Another big gain is that students will actually get to play in a band or orchestra during the school day, as opposed to the current model which requires students to attend Saturday Morning Music School (SMMS) if they want to play in an ensemble prior to Grade 6. SMMS has been a vital part of our music program for decades, and we fully intend for it to remain that way. By finally offering band and orchestra during the school day, we can find creative ways for SMMS to supplement and enrich the experiences that we offer to our young musicians.

We fully expect there to be some disappointment among some students and families who expected to begin studying a string or band instrument next year, only to learn now that they will have to wait another year. Hopefully they will find solace in the vast improvements being made to the instructional model – particularly in Grade 5 – that should lead to better outcomes and higher levels of achievement for all of our music students. We are confident that in the big picture of a student’s journey through our music program, these changes should have a tremendously positive impact on their experience.

If you have any questions regarding these changes, please feel free to contact Arto Asadoorian, Director of Visual and Performing Arts (aasadoorian@belmont.k12.ma.us).

You can see the information shared with School Committee at this link: