Rye Country Day School Gives Students Academic Credit for Band Participation

The school’s “mini-conservatory” structure also allows for private instruction and advanced placement classes for music education.



John Hager directs the Rye Country Day School Upper School Wind Ensemble at the Winter Concert.

Photo by Todd Shapera

Attention, all you tired parents out there, bleary-eyed from driving your kid to 7:30 am band practice: You are going to hate this, but at private Rye Country Day School, not only is music made during civilized hours, the kids also get full school credit for taking band or chorus. “These classes meet every day, for as much time as any other class, and we even offer Advanced Placement Music Theory,” says Mary Marcell, head of the music department. “It shows we have a real commitment to the arts here.” 

About 40 of the school’s students take some kind of instrumental music for class credit under the direction of two main teachers. “It’s a mini-conservatory experience,” says Marcell, who’s been there 21 years. “In addition to band and jazz band, we offer private lessons for any student who wants to take them.” There are also currently small ensembles for sax and trombone that meet regularly. “That’s because this year, we have some particularly wonderful sax and trombone players coming up through. We always tailor the program, looking for opportunities to enrich the current class.” 

So deeply ingrained is both instrumental and vocal music in the school’s culture that each year, Rye Country Day hosts a Festival Chorus concert—members of the band, along with some professional musicians, parents, and faculty, accompanies a chorus consisting of current and past students, parents, faculty, and friends of the school. (The school, being small, has no full-time orchestra.) 

While the school doesn’t embrace an ultra-competitive musical approach, its students do get noticed for their talents. “They regularly advance to all-state bands and ensembles,” says Marcell. And they’ve made their mark in the world as well: “We’ve had a number of graduates become conductors, composers, music teachers, and perform in Broadway productions.” All, she believes, because of the special start they’ve gotten.

Also Distinguished: Hackley School in Tarrytown, Harrison High School, Port Chester High School, and White Plains High School.

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