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Music at SMA


Become a part of the SMA Music Program. More than 40% of SMA students are involved in our award-winning ensembles and exemplary music elective courses. Below you will find information for each of the music courses here at SMA.

Music Appreciation

Music Appreciation is a required course for 9th grade students, part of a year-long rotation of music, art, dance, and theatre. In this 9-week class, students study the elements of music (melody, harmony, style, rhythm, form, timbre, texture, and expression) through composition and analysis of several musical genres.

Ukulele

Learn to play the ukulele! Throughout one semester, students who take this course learn basic ukulele technique (strumming and picking), develop musical literacy, study and perform varied repertoire, improvise and compose their own compositions, and create their own final group performance. Students will perform in small and large ensembles. This course is recommended for any student desiring to learn how to play the ukulele, interested in studying musicianship, or continuing with music both during and/or after high school.

Class Piano

Learn to play piano! Students who enroll in class piano study and practice beginning technique and music literacy using Frances Clark’s intervallic approach to playing piano. While learning to read and perform music at the keyboard, students study penta-scales, tetra-scales, major scales, arpeggios, accompanying and transposition, repertoire, and sight reading exercises. This course is recommended for any student desiring to learn how to play the piano, interested in studying music theory and composition, or continuing with music studies after high school.

Music Theory & Composition I & II

Music Theory & Composition is a study of the structure of music applied through analysis of music and original compositions. Students explore the elements of sound, music notation, tonality, modality, melody, harmony, rhythm, form, sight singing, and ear training. This is a very important class for students interested in studying music in college. Topics studied include major and minor key signatures, harmonic structures and functions, musical terminology, keyboard/piano skills, sight singing, and ear training. All elements of music (style/genre, timbre, harmony, expression, melody, rhythm, texture, and form) are studied in depth. Prerequisite Skills: ability to identify pitch in both treble and bass clefs; ability to read basic rhythmic patterns; beginning level piano/keyboard skills. Class Piano is a recommended but not required prerequisite for this course.

Music Theory & Composition II is a continued study of the structure of music, applied through analysis of music and original compositions. Topics covered include scales, tonality, modes, transposition, cadences and non-harmonic tones, melodic organization, harmonic structures and functions, modulations, binary and ternary form, musical terminology, keyboard/piano skills, sight singing, and ear training. All elements of music (style/genre, timbre, harmony, expression, melody, rhythm, texture, and form) are studied in depth.

Piano Ensemble

Piano Ensemble is a part of the history and heritage of the SMA community. It is the only ensemble class offered at the high school level in Oregon. This unique piano program allows for collaborative duets and accompanying skills to be developed. Piano Ensemble is a class for credit that meets Mondays 3:25 – 4:50 after school. Piano Ensemble performs annually at our Christmas and spring concerts. Students have the opportunity to compete in MTNA music contests. Interested in more information? Contact ashley.mccullar@smapdx.org

Orchestra

SMA offers both a chamber orchestra as well as an advanced strings ensemble. Our orchestra students perform annually at our Christmas and spring concerts, along with performances in the community. Rehearsals are focused on developing good ensemble skills, sight-reading, ear training, and performance techniques in a variety of musical styles and genres. Students are eligible for participation in the Oregon Music Educators Association Solo and Ensemble Competition in the spring. Auditions are held at the beginning of each school year. Orchestra is a class for credit which meets Tuesdays 3:25 – 4:25 & Wednesdays 3:25 – 5:25 after school. Interested in more information? Contact travis.hatton@smapdx.org

Freshman Concert Choir

Concert Choir is a non-auditioned choir, open to all 9th grade students who want to sing. This class for credit meets before school Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 7:30 – 8:20 AM. Concert Choir performs annually at our Christmas and spring concerts, along with performances in the community. This popular ensemble averages approximately 50 students every year. While students prepare and rehearse music for performances they study the following topics: proper breathing technique for singing; vocal health, efficient and healthy singing technique and skills, choral blend and intonation skills, sight singing, ear training and music literacy skills, and choral repertoire representing a variety of musical genres, cultures and languages. Students are provided with the opportunity to participate in the Oregon Music Educators Association Solo and Ensemble contest. Interested in more information? Contact ashley.mccullar@smapdx.org

Rose Choir

Rose Choir is a non-auditioned choir, open to all 10th – 12th grade students who want to sing. This class for credit meets before school Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 7:30 – 8:20 AM. Rose Choir performs annually at our Christmas and spring concerts, along with performances in the community. This popular ensemble averages approximately 80 students every year. While students prepare and rehearse music for performances they study the following topics: proper breathing technique for singing; vocal health, efficient and healthy singing technique and skills, choral blend and intonation skills, sight singing, ear training and music literacy skills, and choral repertoire representing a variety of musical genres, cultures and languages. Students are provided with the opportunity to participate in the Oregon Music Educators Association Solo and Ensemble contest. Interested in more information? Contact kathy.briggs@smapdx.org

Show Choir and A Cappella

The focus of this exciting course is performing jazz/pop a cappella choral arrangements and show choir literature, programming a well-balanced set of music (opener, comedic, medley, ballad, closer) using appropriate vocal styling and choral choreography, and staging. While students prepare and rehearse music for performance, they study the following topics: proper breathing technique for singing, vocal health, efficient and healthy singing technique and skills, choral blend and intonation skills, sight singing, ear training and music literacy skills, and basic movement, dance, and choreography.

Students in the class choose and rehearse contemporary choral music and develop a fully choreographed show choir and a cappella set for performance at the Spring Concert.

Marian Singers

Marian Singers is an auditioned 10th – 12th grade choir. The award-winning Marian Singers have been the school’s premier choir for nearly a century. A trailblazer for treble choirs, in 2008 the Marians were the first treble choir in state history to compete in the Oregon State Choir Championships at the 6A level, have since won numerous league titles and trophies, and in 2015 became the first treble choir in history to win the state title. The nationally-recognized Marians have received the prestigious honors of performing at the 2013 Northwest National Association for Music Education conference and the 2018 Northwest American Choir Directors Association conference.

The choir has performed on stage at the Arlene Schnitzer Auditorium and Keller Auditorium, along with several other Portland venues, has travelled to New York, Seattle, Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, and was invited twice to perform for President and Mrs. Obama at the White House (2013, 2014). The Marians perform at school liturgies, the Christmas and spring concerts, area music festivals, and several other school and community special events. Students are provided with the opportunity to participate in the Oregon Music Educators Association Solo and Ensemble contest, as well as the opportunity to audition for the Oregon All-State Choir.

While preparing music for performance, students study the following topics: proper breath technique for singing, vocal health, efficient and healthy singing technique and skills, choral blend and intonation skills, sight singing, ear training and music literacy skills, choral repertoire representing a variety of musical genres, cultures, and languages.

Marians rehearse Tuesday and Thursday after school from 3:25 – 4:50, with occasional extended rehearsals until 5:20. Auditions for this prestigious group are held the last week of school every year. Interested in more information? Contact kathy.briggs@smapdx.org


Student Travel Opportunities

Music students at SMA are offered the opportunity to travel to Austria, Germany, and Switzerland to learn about music history. This spring break trip takes place every three years and includes a tour of the Vienna Opera House, a classical music concert in a Viennese palace, Mozart’s Birthplace, an evening of Bavarian folk music and dancing, and an official Sound of Music tour as students visit Lucerne, Innsbruck, Munich, Salzburg, and Vienna.

Music Faculty

Ms. Kathy Briggs Kathy Briggs has over 20 years of conducting and teaching experience and has been at SMA since 2007. Ms. Briggs was awarded the 2016 Oregon American Choral Directors Association Podium Award for her contribution to the choral arts, was honored as a finalist in the OnPoint Excellence in Teaching Awards in 2011, and was the Mt. Hood Conference "Advisor of the Year"in 2009. Her research on movement in the choral rehearsal was published in the Choral Journal (Vol 52, No. 5), she has authored lesson plans for the National Association for Music Education and VH1 Music Studios, and she has presented at regional and state NAfME conferences. She is the 2018-2020 state president of the Oregon Music Education Association, was the 2017 state music conference chairperson, and is co-chair and founder of the OMEA state student composition contest. Ms. Briggs has met with leadership both in Salem and in Washington, DC to advocate for arts and education funding. Her award winning choirs have performed across the country and in Europe, highlighted by the honor of twice being invited to perform in the White House for President Obama and the First Lady. Ms. Briggs has a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education and Vocal Performance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Masters of Music Education in Choral Conducting from the University of St. Thomas. She also conducts the University of Portland’s Bel Canto choir. It is Ms. Briggs' lifelong dream to meet Julie Andrews.


Ms. Ashley McCullar Ashley McCullar has been teaching music, accompanying, and conducting choir at St. Mary’s Academy since 2014. Ms. McCullar has a Masters in Choral Conducting from Portland State University and a BFA in Piano Performance, with a minor in Piano Pedagogy and Music Education from Carnegie Mellon University. Prior to moving to Portland, she was the Music Director for St. John Neumann Parish and a music director for Act One Theatre School, both in Pittsburgh, PA. Ms. McCullar also conducts for the Pacific Youth Choir and is an active member of OMEA, ACDA, and NAfME. She enjoys spending her free time with her husband and their two young daughters.


Mr. Travis Hatton Travis Hatton joined the SMA faculty in 2018. His versatile conducting career has placed him on the podium of a broad spectrum of musical groups not only here in the Pacific Northwest, but across Europe and the United States. His wide interests have led him to work with opera companies, orchestras, chamber groups, choruses and bands. Along with leading our SMA orchestra program, Mr. Hatton is the Music Director of the Beaverton Symphony Orchestra and the Sunnyside Symphony Orchestra in Portland. He is also Director of Orchestras at Valley Catholic School in Beaverton, and is Artist in Residence at George Fox University in Newberg Oregon where he directs the Chehalem Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Hatton holds a Bachelor of Music degree Magna Cum Laude in Music Theory and Composition from the University of the Pacific and a Master of Music degree in Orchestral Conducting from the New England Conservatory of Music. He lives in Vancouver, Washington with his wife and their two children.