Participation in the Music Program earns the student credit for each academic year he/she participates.  A grade is given quarterly for the ensembles and is based on the criteria listed below.

Grading categories from the HCPSS Music Grading Standards are weighted as follows:

Mus s1: Creativity & Composition (5%) - Students develop and apply strategies to generate and express a variety of musical ideas.

  • Students will complete composition assignments to further their understanding of music theory and creative processes.

Mus s2: Musicianship (15%) -  Students will demonstrate their performance skills many times throughout the year in performance settings.  These performances are set up to mimic professional settings as closely as possible.   The skills required for a successful performance are as follows:

  • Calendar Management - Students are required to keep a calendar of performance dates. Students must communicate those dates to family members and do everything they can to make sure that they have no conflicts with the performance date and that they have secured transportation.

  • Professional Attire - Knowledge and adherence to the EMMS performance uniform is required for all performances

  • Instrument Care and Maintenance - Students must be responsible for making sure that the performance instrument is in good playable condition and that any extra supplies needed (reeds, strings, rock stops, etc.) are accompanying the instrument at the performance.

NOTE:  The HCPSS Middle School Performance Assessment is required of Howard County Music Performance students.  This is a one-time performance opportunity that cannot be made up.  Please plan for this now!  Specific dates for each performing ensemble are included on our Events Calendar.  Exact times and transportation information will be available closer to the event.

Mus s3: Applied Skills & Technical Development (25%) - Students demonstrate individual and ensemble skills and strategies appropriate to music-making.

  • Students will work as individuals, in sections, and as an ensemble to develop the necessary skills to be successful as a musician and as an ensemble.  Individual/section skills will include instrument specific techniques and exercises, including listening.   Ensemble skills will focus on techniques required to perform as a group.  Assessments will occur regularly in class and during sectionals.

    • Music Mastery - The music staff is in the process of developing a set of progressive skills in key performance areas that will guide student growth throughout the year.  Student will be able to progress through this continuum at their own pace, thus providing a consistent challenge for students at all levels of proficiency.  The MASTERING of these skills and the PROGRESSION through the variety of skills will help guide our decisions for yearly ensemble placement.  More information to follow.

Mus s4: Procedures & Practices (50%) - Students demonstrate appropriate musical practices in all musical settings, including: rehearsals, performances, and other music experiences.

  • Students are not just learning to perform on their instruments, but they are also learning to conduct themselves in varied musical settings. This class will put the student in the role of a professional instrumental musician. As such, you will be asked to show your understanding of rehearsal and performance behavior. Students are observed and assessed on their instrumental performance and rehearsal conduct on a daily basis.

    • Participation - Students are expected to participate fully in all rehearsals.  Rehearsal participation includes asking/answering questions, assisting others where appropriate, supporting the efforts of the directors, and remaining emotionally and intellectually involved in what the ensemble is doing.  Students are expected to adhere to any guidelines set forth for proper rehearsal management.

    • Preparedness - Students are expected to attend rehearsals with appropriate materials  Refer to the list of Required Materials in the HANDBOOK section.  This includes being able to perform all exercises and music.

    • Sectional Attendance - Students must keep an organized calendar of sectional classes and are responsible for attending these scheduled classes.

Mus s5: Reflection (5%) - Students communicate an understanding of concepts and strategies through the evaluation of music.

  • Students will complete assignments (reflections) that explore musical works performed in the class to further their understanding of performance practice. Assignments will include listening to personal, ensemble, and professional recordings and researching musical works to understand cultural and historical context. Students will evaluate their performances and performances by other groups in the following categories: tone, technique, intonation, musicality, blend & balance, interpretation, musical effect, and other factors.


HCPSS defines Performing Ensembles as co-curricular classes that require time outside of the scheduled school-day. (HCPSS Policy 8090: Non-School-Hour Curricular Programs).


This is always a tough topic to cover, but here goes...

There is always homework if you are in a performing ensemble!

When students get ready to run out of the house to go to athletic practice...  No student stops and says, "Do I have to practice tonight!"  Of course not, they go because they love what they are doing and they want to get better at it.  Music is no different, except that we do not keep score and we spend a lot of time alone when we practice.  We want your music experience to be fun, but it also requires a commitment of time, effort,  and energy.

If you work hard... you get better... it becomes more fun!

So...  We DO NOT use Practice Charts (Logs) to track student practice.

  • Students are encouraged to practice every day for 30 minutes. (We joke with students and tell them that they only need to practice on the days that end in "Y", or only on days that you eat!) This is the best way to get the most out of your music experience and progress as a musician.

  • Students will need to determine how much time is needed to reinforce the skills and repertoire that is presented in class. We will assess your progress, and let's be honest... We know who is practicing and who is not! Throughout the year, students will be asked to perform selections of the exercises and current repertoire. This is not only an opportunity to assess student achievement and development, but also a chance to evaluate the progress of the ensemble. This will help to determine rehearsal strategies to better prepare for performances.

  • HOWEVER... I know how hard it can be to set a consistent practice routine and encourage your young musician to develop good practice habits. If you would like to track your students practice at home, feel free to print a BLANK PRACTICE CHART.