The MCDS music curriculum develops well-rounded musicians beginning at a young age by providing both structured and creative opportunities for students.

In Lower School, students begin general music classes in Pre-K and Kindergarten, with the addition of grade-level choir and semi-private piano lessons starting in grade 1. In middle school, students choose from a variety of instruments and participate in an ensemble (band, choir, orchestra). As part of their instruction, they receive private lessons from a member of the music faculty to assist in their learning on the instrument. They also receive music theory instruction and compose their own pieces. In high school, students continue to perform in ensembles and can choose to take a variety of courses in music history and theory. 

The MCDS music experience establishes a foundation for students to evolve into musical adults who participate, appreciate, and enjoy music throughout their lifetimes. Many MCDS alumni continue to include music in their lives through college ensembles, community organizations, marching bands and, in some cases, choosing to major in music in college.

band concert

Music Opportunities Throughout the Year:

Concerts and Recitals

MCDS celebrates the efforts of our lower school choirs, middle and high school bands, choirs, and orchestras in regular concerts throughout the school year. These concerts are wonderful community events that showcase the work of our MCDS students. In addition, students (first through twelfth grade) have the opportunity to perform in a solo or small group capacity during our regularly scheduled recitals during the year. We welcome parents and friends to these wonderful performance events.


Fine Arts Festival

Fine Arts Festival is a schoolwide event held during the month of February, which highlights the importance of the fine arts at MCDS. Guest artists work with our students across all grades to deepen their understanding and share different cultures and values through their expertise. Examples of recent guests include a visiting artist who worked with all middle school classes to create a collaborative sculpture, the Zhong Yi Kung Fu Association Lion Dancers and drummers and Ghanaian drummer and dancer, Nani Agbeli who taught singing, dancing and drumming to students. A student art gallery is presented to the community along with an evening of music at the annual Jazz Showcase. The festival ends with middle and high school choirs performing the Choral Pops Concert.


Jazz Showcase

The Jazz Showcase promotes the Madison Country Day School music program to the MCDS community and general public, through performances by our own MCDS music students, with the pinnacle of the concert being a live performance by a professional ensemble featuring some of the Midwest’s finest musicians and educators.

Throughout the week prior to the Showcase, these featured professionals and others host presentations and master classes in their area of expertise during the school day. Students have a chance to perform for these guests and receive constructive criticism in order to improve their skills.

The MCDS Jazz Showcase was established in 2008. Past themes include: “The Legends Concert”, “Jazz on Stage and Screen”, “The Big Easy, A Tribute to the City of New Orleans”, “Swing, Swing, Swing” (A tribute to the dance band era), and “Baila Que Baila” (Latin Jazz and Dance).  The Showcase is truly a unique event, in part, due to the important balance between entertainment and education.

Choral Pops Concert

In late February, MCDS Middle and High School choirs perform a fully-staged show of singing and dancing to popular music. Each show is centered around a theme and includes large group numbers, solos, and small groups accompanied by a live, professional band, all performed at an off-campus venue, such as the MATC Mitby Theater and the Orpheum Theater. Past themes include “Don’t Stop Me Now- Queen & Bowie,” “Rock and Roll! Jukebox hits from the 50s and 60s,” and “MOTOWN!”

Spring String Thing

String students prepare by learning new genres of music, considering the dance tradition that is integral to that style. Students also have the unique experience of playing with a professional ensemble. At the inaugural Spring String Thing in 2022 students worked side-by-side with Madison’s Yid Vicious, a traditional Klezmer band. In 2023 students learned music and dance traditions from Cuba, performing with Latin band Charanga Agozá. This year's Spring String Thing is Friday, April 5, 2024. 


MCDS is a proud member of the Wisconsin School Music Association (WSMA). Students in grades sixth through twelve participate annually in district and state solo and ensemble festivals, large group festivals, and the music composition project.


MCDS also gives students the opportunity to participate in examinations hosted by the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music (ABRSM). Students prepare pieces from prescribed lists and perform them for examiners, receiving feedback and a rating. There are both practical (performance) examinations and written music theory exams for all levels of students.

Music beyond MCDS

Explore the world through music! MCDS students receive musical instruction at school and experience other great opportunities outside of their normal surroundings. Lower School students embark on field trips to Madison’s Overture Center to experience the power of the symphony orchestra! Middle and High School students travel throughout the year to large group festivals, community events, and local performance tours in Madison.