Best way to prepare kids for youth orchestra?


Kay said: May 25, 2009
Suzuki Association Member
7 posts

Hi, I’m a Suzuki violin teacher in rural western Colorado, I teach privately and in the schools. We have a youth orchestra in our community. My students are very excited about preparing for it. Question—What’s the best way to prepare early book violin students for playing in the youth orchestra? Thanks

Kay Woods

Jennifer Visick said: May 25, 2009
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

Identify the skills needed that are specific to an ensemble setting and make a plan to teach them systematically, with consistent reviewing, during the 6 months previous to starting.

Hopefully, the orchestra director will know how to teach these things as well. In fact, you may want to contact the orchestra director and ask for a list of skills they expect their students to have when the start the orchestra. (Or this list may be on the orchestra’s audition application).

Some things that they may not know from private lessons:

-how to listen to the way their part fits into the rest of the parts being played.

  • how to move their chair and adjust their music stand so that they can sit and play with good posture, and so that their line of sight includes the music on the stand, the section leader, and the conductor. (if the student is a section leader, they should be able to see all the other string section leaders). How not to block their stand partner’s view of the sheet music.

  • How to frequently glance at the conductor without losing their spot in the sheet music. How to copy the section leader’s bow position (e.g. if the section leader is in the lower or upper half, etc).

-how to count multiple measure rests

  • Knowing the duties of the “inside” and “outside” players. when to turn pages if they are the inside person on a stand (and what is the “inside” and “outside” person anyways?). How to know which note in a double stop to play (inside—lower note; outside—upper note).

  • Write necessary reminders. (fingerings: inside person on the bottom, outside person on the top. If they consistently miss an accidental: write a large-ish ‘courtesy’ sharp, flat, or natural sign directly above the note. If the next page contains rests at the top of the page, writing this in the bottom right hand corner of the page. If the conductor is in 2, 3, 4, 6,—how to write beat marks and or “IN x” near the start of movements. How to “flag” repeat signs and backwards repeat signs with two slash marks at the top and bottom of the staff, etc.

-Hopefully in a youth orchestra, the director and section coaches will help bow the parts. But the student should still begin learning about the basic “intuitive” bowings. If you don’t have a framework for teaching this, Elizabeth Green’s book “Orchestral bowings and routines” can be a good teacher’s guide. Making sure that during rehearsal, bowings match up with the section leader. making sure they copy bowings and markings from the section leader’s part into their own during break, or before or after rehearsal. Especially if the student is playing off the stand partner’s music!

  • how to identify the hard bits for themselves (e.g., during rehearsal keep a pencil on the stand and mark an x or a check next to lines they can’t play in the conductor’s tempo yet.). Also, they need to practice these sections at home and then ask for help in the private lesson if they can’t figure it out on their own.

-how to follow along in the music with their eyes even when their fingers can’t keep up (yet). Practice this while sitting or standing off to the side of the music stand in order to simulate the visual difficulties involved in doing this while playing with a stand partner. If necessary, make a blown up copy of the music on a photocopier.

-how to see a downbeat from a conductor’s many possible strange hand motions. It might be useful to teach the student basic conducting patterns (2, 3, and 4).

Connie Sunday said: May 26, 2009
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

Also see:

Two Essays on the Development of Student Orchestras:
[list][]Orchestra Etiquette and Protocol [/:m]
[]Orchestral Discipline[/:m][/list:u]

A lot of teachers like to print out the first essay, as a handout. See: printable version

Free Handouts for Music Teachers & Students:

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