Orchestral Sectionals


said: Jun 4, 2010
 145 posts

I’ve been asked to coach for my local youth orchestra. I will be coaching 16-18 yr olds once a week. I’m really looking forward to it, but want to do the job really well. Has anyone ideas on how they would take the rehearsals. I was thinking of photocopying the excerpts that are really challenging and asking them all to first of all master those bits. I want to introduce a good balance of discipline/fun. Is it good to play along with the students or should I conduct them ? I’d really appreciate some in put here as I havnt done this sort of teaching before, even though I have played in an orchestra for 25 years, so I am reasonably confident and know most of the repertoire. It’s easier though to practise the parts on your own like I did for years, now I have to teach it, I’m feeling a little anxious!

Timothy Judd said: Jul 22, 2010
Timothy Judd
Suzuki Association Member
Glen Allen, VA
56 posts

If you have been an orchestral player for 25 years you are drawing on a wealth of knowledge that will be really useful to the students. You already know the pitfalls and the places that will need work (as well as the tempos) while the students may not. Your idea of having them focus on difficult excerpts sounds really good. I have done sectionals for the Richmond Symphony’s youth orchestra and I usually just end up practicing with them. I slow it way down and work on basic intonation and rhythm and recommend fingerings. Most of the time I conduct with a pencil. Beyond that I sometimes try to work on a beautiful, blended sound and encourage them to really listen. Some of the things you take for granted may be completely new concepts for the students. In certain passages I ask them if they know what is going on in the rest of the orchestra so they can think about blend. One thing I have noticed is that the students often do not understand how soft a real orchestral piano has to be. Make sure they also have pencils and mark in the points you make. I agree also with your comment about the mix of discipline and fun. Try to keep them off guard with this. From experience I can tell you that it is a good idea to project confidence from the beginning and don’t let them get unruly. If students begin to talk and get disruptive, immediately let them know that it is disrespectful and will not be tolerated. If you give them a “corrective jerk” once in a while you should be able to lighten up and there will be no problem. With your experience, I’m sure you have a lot to offer so relax and enjoy the experience!


said: Jul 24, 2010
 7 posts

I’ve done a few sectionals (cello) for the youth orchestra here in my area. The orchestra manager sent me the music that they were working on with notes from the conductor on priority areas to work on. I demonstrated the passages, worked on listening to each other, blending together, gave them fingerings, worked on rhythm, tricky shifts in the music, intonation and tempo (not rushing or slowing down), and also worked on dynamics. It was fun, I really enjoyed it—really nice group of kids. Once we finished all the sections from the conductor, then I asked them if there were other tricky sections that they needed help on.

Connie Sunday said: Aug 15, 2010
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

I have some materials online on developing youth orchestras, which a lot of teachers (and conductors) like. Please see:
Two Essays on the Development of Student Orchestras*
Orchestra Etiquette and Protocol | Orchestral Discipline

There is a printable version of the first essay which a lot of teachers hand out to their students. Please see:


Free Handouts for Music Teachers & Students:

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