In 2009, St. Mary’s Cathedral entered into a partnership with St. Brigid Elementary School to establish a choir school there. A five stage development was proposed, starting with building up of the existing school choir program into a vibrant ensemble, then enhancing music education for all children in the classroom, with more time for music class and a curriculum based on the Kodaly and Ward Methods, which stress vocal music, music reading, and artistic expression. This curriculum is brought up one grade at a time, so that by the year 2020 the whole student body will be musically literate and can sing in parts.
An outreach project of the choir school is the Archdiocesan Children’s Choir. Through an invitation of the Archbishop, children from parochial schools are nominated for this choir. Those who accept the invitation rehearse at the cathedral and learn the same repertoire as the St. Brigid School Honor Choir, and they often perform together.
The Choir School at St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco, CA, is a program for children with these components:
● St. Brigid School Honor Choir: numbering between 50 and 60 members, this choir resides at St. Brigid Elementary School, which is within the parish boundaries of the cathedral. The music staff at the school teaches a rigorous curriculum based on the Ward and Kodaly methods, which is a vocal pedagogy by which children learn to be musically literate by experiencing, creating, and participating in music. The choir is an extra-curricular activity, although many functions happen during the school day. A select chamber choir has an additional rehearsal once a week before school. The Honor Choir and the Chamber Choir sing for school and cathedral functions and also participate in other Archdiocesan and private events. Choir scholarships, which provide assistance with school tuition, are available based on merit and need. The choir is open to 3rd through 8th graders by audition.
● San Francisco Archdiocesan Children's Choir: the most promising singers of Archdiocesan elementary schools are invited to participate in this choir, which sings twice a month at the cathedral and for other events, many of them with the Archbishop. The choir sometimes collaborates with the St. Brigid School Honor Choir, and the repertoires are very similar.
● St. Brigid School provides an extensive musical education for its students, with the goal of establishing a cathedral choir school at St. Brigid. All students, not just choir members, are beneficiaries of this unique program. We are presently at stage 4 of a unique 5-stage program, centering on the Ward and Kodaly Methods, a graded system based on vocal music, stressing music reading and artistic expression. The methods are used exclusively in K-5, although the upper grades benefit from some elements of both systems as well. In K-4, music instruction is several times a week for short periods. Students learn to read and experience music through listening, singing, writing, and moving. The plan is to bring the methods up one grade at a time, with the whole school being musically literate by the year 2020 (stage 5). The choir school project is partially funded by St. Mary’s Cathedral.