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Music education is a vital component of the total education a student receives. Through the study of music, all students develop knowledge and skills that prepare them to experience the power of music in human existence. Students identify, decode, and interpret symbols, becoming literate musicians and translate that understanding into an emotional experience. They discover music as a unique form of communication and as a means of self-expression not afforded by any other discipline.

The Howard County Public School System prepares students for the creation, practice, study, criticism, and teaching of music, in a context that emphasizes cultural diversity, community engagement, and technical innovation. As a performing art, music builds self-discipline and promotes self-esteem in ways that are not inherent in other curricular offerings. Because of the ordered nature of the elements of music, students learn to think with increased complexity; because of the creative potential in music, they learn to think in divergent ways.

HCPSS Performance Dates, Music Assessments and Adjudication

2023-2024 HCPSS Music Performance Calendar

Music Grading Standards

Artistic Processes

Performing: The act of communicating musical ideas through individual or ensemble demonstration.

  • Imagine – generate musical ideas for various purposes and contexts.
  • Plan and Make – select and develop musical ideas for defined purposes and contexts.
  • Evaluate and Refine – select musical ideas to create musical work that meets appropriate criteria.
  • Present – share creative musical work that conveys intent, demonstrates craftsmanship, and exhibits originality.

Creating: Conceiving, developing, or interpreting music through composition or performance.

  • Select – select varied musical works to present based on interest, knowledge, technical skill and context.
  • Analyze – analyze the structure and context of varied musical works and their implications for performance.
  • Interpret – develop personal interpretations that consider creators’ intent.
  • Rehearse, Evaluate and Refine – evaluate and refine personal and ensemble performances, individually or in collaboration with others.
  • Present – perform expressively, with appropriate interpretation and technical accuracy, and in a manner appropriate to the audience and context.

Responding: The communication of one’s interpretation, reflection, and evaluation of music according to select criteria.



All PreK-5th grade students take general music weekly. Students may begin orchestra instruction in 3rd grade, or band and chorus instruction in 4th grade.


Middle school students may choose to participate in year-long band, choir, and orchestra classes. Each ensemble is ability-based. Students may also have the opportunity to participate in general music as part of related arts. In general music, students experience music through world drumming, guitar, keyboards, and music technology.

Middle School Course Catalog


High school students may choose to participate in year-long band, choir, and orchestra classes. Each ensemble is ability-based. Students may also enroll in music elective courses, including piano, guitar, music theory, and music technology.

High School Course Catalog

Gifted and Talented (G/T) Ensembles

HCPSS offers musical opportunities for students who can demonstrate the ability perform at an above-average difficulty level. All G/T Ensembles have an audition requirement and a commitment to a rehearsal schedule. In addition, a select few ensembles will give students opportunities to perform alongside world-class musicians such as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and various guest conductors.

Learn more about each ensemble opportunity →