A new specialty program has been added to the curriculum at Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Monmouth County that has students literally singing with glee.
Launched this fall at the Marlboro school, the new course, called TIV (theory, instrument, voice), is a weekly requirement of all students from pre-K through grade eight. By teaching the fundamentals of music and performance, the program helps build self-confidence and individual expression as each student explores their musical abilities, said instructor Jenny Sarf of Manalapan.
SSDS music students will showcase their work in two upcoming programs, a Music Showcase on Feb. 3, and a performance of Fiddler on the Roof Jr. on March 29. Held in the school gym, both productions will be open to the public.
“Studying music comprehensively, we learn an eloquent language of human expression,” said Sarf, who studied music and performance at University of British Columbia, Thomas Edison State College in Trenton, and the American Music and Dramatic Academy in New York City. “Studying famous composers and artists in all genres not only teaches about music but also about history and culture in our world.”
“At a time when public schools are cutting art and music programming, SSDS is seeking ways to infuse specialty programs into its already advanced curriculum,” said head of school Yoti Yarhi. “A curriculum of music is an essential ingredient in academic achievement.”
As part of the curriculum, students in grades two-five study the soprano recorder, and grades six-eight use a Smart Board to learn to play the keyboard. Sarf also teaches Israeli songs to students, which she described as a uniquely interactive musical experience.
“I don’t speak Hebrew, but my students do, so they teach me the Hebrew and I teach them the rhythm,” Sarf said. “This demonstrates how universal the language of music is, and makes the students so happy to be able to learn and teach at the same time.”
To encourage creative thinking and problem solving, Sarf encourages older students to write their own compositions. “They absolutely love writing their own music because it expresses exactly what they feel.”
The program has sparked a passion for performing that many students, particularly boys, didn’t even know they had, said Sarf.
Students approach her in the hallway or lunchroom to perform a new song for her. Among them was eight-year-old Jacob Poller of Manalapan.
“I sang ‘Last Night, I had the Strangest Dream’” — the antiwar classic — “for Mrs. Sarf because I want there to be peace in the world and an end to war,” Jacob said. As a result of the impromptu audition, Jacob will perform the song in the Music Showcase. “I never sang a solo before, and I am very nervous. But Mrs. Sarf thinks that I’m a very good singer.”
Thirteen-year-old Ashley Cohen of Matawan said she looks forward to playing Yenta in the middle school production of Fiddler on the Roof Jr. “I love musical theater and I love being on stage. Mrs. Sarf is a great director because she is calm and well organized.”