A Letter from Our Music Teacher – Shannan Hibbard

Hello, my name is Shannan Hibbard and I am so excited to lead the FCMA music program for the seventh year. I hold a bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. in music education from the University of Michigan. I currently serve on the board of the Michigan Music Education Association (MMEA) as coordinator of the Inclusive Instruction Committee. Prior to teaching at FCMA, I taught K-8 general music for 10 years in public, charter and private schools in Detroit, undergraduate courses at The University of Michigan – Flint, and graduate courses at Eastern Michigan University. 

My journey as a musician began when I was young – singing alongside my parents in church and learning the piano. I played in band throughout my public school years and was the drum major of my high school marching band. Through my undergraduate studies, my majors were voice and alto saxophone, and I soon fell in love with elementary general music during my student teaching experience. I’ve been fortunate to be able to travel to many corners of the world to perform, learn new music, and engage with music education research communities. I’m passionate about helping children find their creative voices and seeking knowledge through writing and research. In my free time, I enjoy yoga, cooking, baking bread, gardening, and traveling. I am thrilled to be a part of this community for another year `with my daughter Violet, an FCMA fourth grader.

I believe music education is an essential part of every child’s educational journey. The goal of our music curriculum is to set each child along a path to be a life-long musician. Whether they go on to become a music consumer, performer, therapist, critic, song-writer, composer, or someone who makes music for the love of it, I hope to ignite a musical spark in every child. Within the P-8 curriculum, all FCMA students are offered opportunities to engage in music in a variety of ways: creating, performing, listening, moving, analyzing, and making connections to themselves, others, and other subject areas. The theoretical elements of music are learned like a language, which means students will make and listen to a wide variety of music before they begin to read and write notation. Most importantly, however, is my goal of nurturing a child’s connection to music, fostered through engagement in a wide variety of musical modes, styles, genres, and cultural traditions. 

PrePrimary Music (preschool) 

Think of our classes like a “musical bath”. PrePrimary students engage in music play, using props and small instruments to engage their bodies, hearts, and minds in songs, chants, and musical games. Some students will participate immediately while some will observe, but all will be immersed in the music around them. In one lesson, students may engage in up to 15 different activities! Students will experience music to begin understanding the theoretical language of music. All students will engage in vocal exploration activities to begin finding their singing voice, and will be encouraged to start improvising and creating music of their own. 

Early Elementary Music (Kindergarten, Grade 1)

While engaging in most of the same structures of PrePrimary music classes described above, early elementary students become more confident and bold in their music-making and movement. We work hard at this level to develop the singing voice, which is emphasized as a child’s primary form of musical expression and musical learning. All students are allowed the opportunity to respond individually to tonal, rhythmic, and open-ended creative prompts. 

Lower Elementary Music (Grades 2-3) 

While not abandoning the musical play and exploratory activities from early elementary, students in lower elementary music classes begin to name and understand theoretical elements of music. They are encouraged to use more labels in their descriptions and musical creations. Students begin to read basic musical notation through labeling the same patterns they used in the younger grades. Student will play Orff instruments – small barred instruments developed by composer Carl Orff, (pictured on the right) and engage in beautiful, multiple-part orchestrations. 

Upper Elementary Music (Grades 4, 5, 6)

While building on prior musical skills and knowledge, upper elementary students engage in music-making on a deeper and more complicated level. Students study hand drumming and ukulele, extending theoretical knowledge and accompanying their own voice. Students begin composing longer songs using instruments or digital formats such as soundtrap.com. Students also make music connected to cultural study, such as playing gourds from Ghana, W. Africa (pictured on the left). As we enter the second year of our instrumental program, sixth graders will have the opportunity to elect a band instrument, which they will learn in tandem with middle school students.

Middle School Music (Grades 7, 8) 

All FCMA middle school students continue their course of music study that enriches personal development and understanding of self. Our middle school program offers opportunities to students unmatched in traditional school music programs. Students are able to choose experiences in solo and small group performing, digital/acoustic music composition, and production. Students guide our choices for school performances, and take on leadership roles. Students may elect band, where we offer wind instruments or percussion for study. Students may also elect song-writing, a course focused on communication through original song.