Students at Berkshire have the choice of participating in a variety of music classes including Digital Music, Music Theory, Chamber Music or Jazz Ensemble, Chorus, or an independent study with a music focus. Students who participate in ensembles have the opportunity to perform throughout the school year at events such as the Winter Concert and Jazz Café (during Pro Vita). Students serious in the pursuit of music may apply to participate in music festivals and enrichment programs.
In addition to the full Berkshire Chorus, students may join one of the singing groups on campus: Greensleeves (boys a cappella), Ursa Minor (girls'a cappella), or the Advanced Chorus (co-ed). Private, non-credit lessons may be arranged through the Music Director or Art Department Chair (An additional fee will apply).
The choral ensemble, Ursa Major, learns to sing in various styles, exploring repertoire from classical, folk, jazz, and popular traditions. A regimen of choral warm-ups, sight-singing, and interpretation makes up the daily class. Students are encouraged to grow as an ensemble, to be responsive listeners, and to blend their voices into an integrated ensemble. The chorus performs regularly throughout the year, both on and off campus.
Students serious in choral performance can participate in district auditions and festivals. Auditions are held each year for Ursa Minor, the girls’ a cappella ensemble, and Greensleeves, the boys’ a cappella ensemble.
The Chamber Music Ensemble is dedicated to studying the masters of classical music from the Renaissance to the 21st century. Repertoire includes divertimenti, serenades, and symphonies of Haydn and Mozart, as well as concerti of Bach, Handel and Vivaldi, to name a few. Students in the Chamber Music Ensemble engage each other in musical dialogues, approaching a uniform interpretation of tempo, articulation, phrasing, and balance. Students perform regularly throughout the year, both on and off campus.
The purpose of Electronic Music is twofold. First, students should feel comfortable and aware of the growing and changing state of technology within the music industry. Second, young musicians should learn to work with technology to increase their overall creative abilities. The Electronic Music class uses the Digital Art Studio which boasts twelve stations, each equipped with a USB keyboard, SONAR, Sound Forge, and various other utility music-making software.
Students enrolled in Electronic Music learn about MIDI sequencing, audio recording, the creation and editing of loops, synthesis techniques, and composition. Each semester, students enrolled in Electronic Music compose a series of pieces. In the spring, Berkshire hosts an Electronic Music Festival featuring guest musicians and composers along with music created by students.
Jazz Ensemble focuses on the standard jazz literature, emphasizing elements of swing, latin, bop, and fusion styles. Students work regularly on scales, modes, improvisations, articulations, phrasing and sight-reading. The band also spends time reading and performing concert band and rock charts. Performances are regularly scheduled throughout the year.
Students in Music Theory learn about pitches, intervals, chord construction, scales, harmonic progression, chorales, figured bass, counterpoint and more. There is a strict emphasis on ear-training and sight-singing to better students’ abilities to hear a score. During the second semester, students in Music Theory begin composing music, which is then performed at the annual classical music recital, Capriccio.