Niskayuna Schools > Academics > Music Department > Middle School Music

picture of MS jazz band

Middle school music program

The Niskayuna Schools Department of Music Education serves as a resource for the development of musical knowledge, musical skills, aesthetic exploration, attitude development, and provides for the personal growth of each individual.  The music curriculum is aligned with the New York State Learning Standards for the Arts as well as the National Music Standards.

Acting Director of Music Education: Eric Hughes,, (518) 382-2511, Ext. 21711


Middle School Music Program Guide
General Music

All students in grades 6 and 7 receive instruction in general music. All classes utilize elements of the Music Learning Theory based on the research of Dr. Edwin Gordon. This curriculum is combined with the Yamaha "Music In Education" program. This program allows students to participate in class 'hands-on' through the use of individual keyboards/synthesizers. The "MIE" program focuses on music concepts such as melody, harmony, texture, range and tempo, as well as the creation of original compositions. This program adapts to various musical backgrounds and skill levels, while allowing all students to be simultaneously engaged. Cooperative learning among the students is encouraged. The middle school general music program also continues to place an emphasis on singing as a means to developing musicianship.

Students in the 6th grade meet daily for 20 weeks for 45 minutes per class. Students in the 7th
grade meet daily for 10 weeks for 45 minutes per class.

In addition to general music, all students in 6th, 7th and 8th grades have the opportunity to participate in choirs, bands, and orchestras.

Middle School Ensembles

In the Niskayuna Music program, your child becomes part of a group whose success depends upon teamwork, cooperation, and individual accountability. The unique talents of all students are joined together to create a thriving and positive ensemble experience. In an ensemble, students learn a greater appreciation for the part others can play in their own successes, and vice versa.

Our Middle School Music Department offers three 'core' ensembles- band, choir, and orchestra. All ensembles meet outside of the regular school day before school begins. Attendance for these rehearsals is expected in the same way as any other class. While it is permitted for students to enroll in more than one ensemble, parents should take into consideration the child's full day and week before making such a decision. When a child is over extended, no one benefits - particularly the child.

Lessons: Band and Orchestra

Students are required to attend weekly 30-minute lessons on a rotating schedule during the school day. The music lesson is the heart of the instrumental music program; it is at this time that the student receives small group and individual instruction, which enables them to improve and refine their skills as a musician.

Students should develop a regular weekly practice routine of at least 30 minutes 5 times per week.

Students w ho receive private music instruction outside of the school day are exempt from school lessons. In-school lessons are provided only to students who are members of Niskayuna Middle School ensembles.

Middle School Band

The Middle School Band program offers three bands: Concert Band (Grade 6); Symphonic Band (Grade 7); and Wind Band (Grade 8). These three bands perform several concerts and assemblies throughout the year. All three groups often participate in major organization evaluation festivals held in the spring, such as NYSSMA or Great East Music Festival.

Jazz Band

The Middle School Jazz Band is open to all 7th and 8th graders by audition. The Jazz Band plays several concerts and assemblies throughout the year, and often travels to the elementary schools to perform as well. Auditions for interested students on drums, piano, bass, guitar, and wind instruments are held in June.


Each middle school - Iroquois and Van Antwerp - has their own choral program. Each school has a 6th grade chorus and a 7th/8th grade chorus. Sixth grade choruses sing SA (Soprano-Alto) or SSA arrangements. Grade 7/8 choruses usually sing SAB (Soprano-Alto-Baritone) arrangements. Repertoire is chosen following the national and state standards. Students are exposed to a variety of musical styles, which include such elements as different meters, tonalities, and cultural diversities.

Choirs sometimes participate in the major choral NYSSMA festival which is held in the spring. Other opportunities arise for students to perform - this varies from year to year.


The Niskayuna Middle School Music Department offers the opportunity for all grade 6-8 string players to be in the string orchestra. The music selected for study offers students a wide variety of musical styles and genres. Skill development, musical knowledge, aesthetic exploration, and individual effort - combined with team-based pursuit of excellence - focuses learning through musical performance.

The Allegro Orchestra / The Presto Orchestra / The Scherzo Orchestra

Enrollment is open to all 6th, 7th and 8th grade students who play Violin, Viola, Cello and Bass. These ensembles are grade-level based, and there is no audition required to be a member. All section seating within the group is at the discretion of the directors. Factors considered for seating are:

  • Skill/Experience Level
  • Leadership qualities
  • Positive attitude/behavior as demonstrated in rehearsals
  • Attendance
  • Posture/Position - as it pertains to the correct positions in which the instrument is held