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Music teacher again (sorry): playing in ensemble groups

(28 Posts)
ZZZen Thu 28-May-09 10:41:03

Can I pick your brains again, lovely MNers. Dd is 8, has been learning violin for about a year now and plays the first position on all strings, knows those notes etc. I'm wondering if it makes sense for her to join a group and practice together.

I have the option of a trainee orchestra set-up for dc, the idea is they get used to playing together and working with a conductor over time. They say she could join at this stage.

The other is a string only (violin, viola, cello, bass) similar set-up. I'm leaning towards this as a motivator/social musical activity. They meet once a week for an hour, learn to play songs, canons and dances togehter and it is supposed to be quite playful.

ZZZen Thu 28-May-09 10:43:51

Sorry to always be so long-winded!

Anyhow, I asked the violin teacher and she advised against it, saying her dh teaches a school orchestra and he finds it a waste of time because the dc don't really have much skill at primary age and it is hard work to produce things with them. This is all instruments. So having listened to her dh's complaints all year, she thinks dc don't get anything much out of it at this stage (listening to other dc playing out of tune, getting it wrong etc and also not having their incorrect posture etc corrected in that hour since the teacher is concentrating on other things.)

Would you agree with her thoughts from your experience? Better to leave it till dd is more accomplished?

Bramshott Thu 28-May-09 10:45:17

I'd go for the fun option if she's only been learning for a year. She will also learn about playing together etc in the string group, but it should be a bit easier as everyone will be playing on similar instruments. Plenty of time for 'proper' orchestra later on.

MichelleObama Thu 28-May-09 10:47:38

My elder two play in a strings orchestra, but they tend to take them from about Grade One level, hence my youngest who is nearly seven and has been learning for a year and a half hasn't started yet. I think it took my oldest three years to get to Grade One on the violin, but that was with group lessons, which obviously makes progress a bit slower than private lessons.
On balance I would leave it another year if her teacher isn't keen for her to start yet - it may discourage her if she finds it difficult to keep up with the other children and put her off violin altogether which would be a shame.

Bramshott Thu 28-May-09 10:47:53

Sorry x-posted! I would think that part of the 'joy' of music is playing with others, and think that your DD could get quite a lot out of it - the group you mention sounds fun. Certainly worth a try anyway, and she'd be having her regular lessons to work on posture etc. You can always stop it if it's interfering with her progress rather than the other way round.

foofi Thu 28-May-09 10:48:28

I think any orchestral experience is valuable. It's more to do with playing together, counting, keeping going etc than all the stuff like posture and tuning that her teacher will be working on in lessons, but all are valuable skills. She's only 8 though and there is plenty of time. It sounds like you're the driving force here, but maybe this is something you could ask her about? Does she want to join the orchestra? I think the string group would be valuable in a different way, as presumably coached by a string player.

ZZZen Thu 28-May-09 10:53:53

Ok thanks. Our violin teacher says she has no personal experience of dc in orchestra/ensembles. She thinks it doesn't make sense before they are in their late teens really and all quite good.

I thought it might motivate dd to be with other dc so it isn't just something she practices every day at home with me and sees a teacher once a week for. She's quite a social animal so I thought it might be nice to see she can have a social life around the violin a bit, if you get my drift.

OK well I will call the lady from the strings ensemble and see what she says. I was told once they know their way around the first position, they can join if she has a place. (Don't think this can be a really strict high-achievement type thing but if it is, I agree that would probably put dd off).

Hmmm undecided

ZZZen Thu 28-May-09 10:56:23

foofi maybe. The reason I was oonsidering it was that she loves choir so much (the singing and the social side) and at choir one of the other mums told me about these set-ups so I wondered if she would enjoy soemthing like this.

So best to wait a bit then. Maybe it's possible to go and observe once, so dd sees if it appeals, seems too difficult.

MichelleObama Thu 28-May-09 10:58:11

Blimey ZZZen the violin teacher sounds a bit hardcore - by late teens they would be at grade 7-8 level. Our DC progress through a series of four orchestras which have a total age range of something like 8-18, all run by three brilliant local strings teachers. They have a concert every term, and to hear them progress year by year is absolutely wonderful. If they had to wait until late teens they would miss out on so much enjoyment.
If the group is set up for absolute beginners and doesn't expect them to frantically try to keep up with more advanced children, and if your DD would enjoy it, I say go for it.

ZZZen Thu 28-May-09 11:05:43

I'm with you there MichelleO, I'm thinking it doesn't ahve to be competition standard orchestra life but showing you how music can be part of your social life too really.

Dd's teacher went through the Russian system which I think was probably in communist days very achievement driven and challenging and that may have soemthing to do with it. I have quietly tried to say (obviously in other words) that I am not aiming at producing the next Oistrakh or Menuhin or something and I think she was a bit baffled by that attitude. You can see she takes her work very seriously though. Since I'm not musically gifted or trained , I really feel unsure about how to tackle this kind of thing since I know she knows what she is doing IYSWIM.

think you're right Bramshott, if it's just strings together, less baffling to the ear perhaps!

MichelleObama Thu 28-May-09 11:21:44

One of the things the DDs' violin teacher is most proud of is that although he has a really brilliant student every year or two who gets a place at a conservatoire or whatever, all the children he teaches when they go off to university or wherever, even if they are not brilliant musicians, can join their university orchestras and play for their own enjoyment because of their involvement in the local orchestra.

ZZZen Thu 28-May-09 12:09:36

well I thought too that once dd has got the basic skills together re singing/violin, she will always be able to join some kind of choir/orchestra on whatever level she is at for enjoyment really through-out life. It's really just having the door to the world of music open but I suppose a teacher will always aim for something higher (in principle at least). I am not really aiming at her having a musical career as such but if she got a passion for it and developped the kind of talent you'd need, that would be ok too. Isn't my plan as such though

ZZZen Thu 28-May-09 16:16:53

OK so I called the teacher from the strings ensemble and she sounds just lovely. Actually she has a fabulous speaking voice, very DEEP. Was actually listening more to her voice than her words but from what I took in, she was very nice about things. She said dd can go and observe, take her violin along but just plan to observe it. She'll talk to dd afterwards and maybe play something with her and by the sounds of it, it will be quite a nice activity.

I asked dd about it foofi and she said it depends on what the people are like really and she wouldn't know till she went there whether it's soemthing she'd want to do which I suppose is fair enough.

I think I'll have another word with the violin teacher first and see what she thinks. Don't think it's quite the same as a primary school orchestra preparing for an end of year musical which was maybe what was stressing her dh out so much

marialuisa Thu 28-May-09 16:19:06

Sounds a bit odd to me. School orchestras and string groups are the norm round here once a child gets to Grade one level (which it sounds as if your DD must be). DD has played in orchestras and string groups since she was 6 and it's one of the things she loves about the violin. Most of the performances are pretyy good, probably not up to your teacher's high standards hmm but a great experience for the kids.

ZZZen Thu 28-May-09 16:23:08

dunno marialuisa, maybe it's just different systems. Her dh is quite a well-known musician in his field so perhaps being an old man and having made his way, it wasn't the task for him IYSWIM. He was doing this orchestra thing on the side as a favour to someone as I understood it but didn't think much of it. Someone used to working with school orchestras might have expected less and enjoyed it more. I don't know him personally, so just know what she said to me about it.

Well good to know that these trainee type orchestra/ensembles are not a BAD THING after all and we'll see how it goes then

thirtypence Fri 29-May-09 08:03:50

I can tell when my pupils join a school orchestra - their technique and posture turn to dust.

However they learn to play in time (if they found it hard before) they get good at sightreading and their tone improved (teach wind instrument).

They also start to practise more because they are enthused - and they are more likely to want to do exams or competition because an element of competition kicks in with the people they sit with.

I am still in touch with the people I was in orchestra with - I don't speak to any one from my school. Says it all really.

ZZZen Fri 29-May-09 13:25:13

technique and posture turning to dust = not good

OK I see the problem a bit better now. This is all very important for beginning violinists judging by dd's lessons, so I think we'll shelve it for a year to get her correct positioning and hold deeper ingrained and have a bash at something like this ensemble playing in a year's time.

I think marialuisa as a music teacher yourself, you're better able to correct your own dd's hold and how high or low she needs to position her fingers to hit the right note etc than I am so you can probably sort out any problems like that which crop in yourself in her daily practice.

Thanks very much everyone!

marialuisa Fri 29-May-09 18:08:31

Definitely not a music teacher! Interested by how different the approach is though, my experience as a child and now with DD is that playing with a group from very early on is encouraged-maybe because a lot is done through schools? DD self corrects her tuning (normally, or we shriek) and i find walking past mumbling about glueing a spike onto her violin helps avert pancake hold.

thirtypence Sat 30-May-09 03:55:02

Tuning should get better from ensemble playing not worse, and as for the posture, it sounds like she has a teacher that will harp on about this week in, week out.

I think the positives outweigh the negatives - but if you decide to wait she will not suffer.

ZZZenAgain Sat 05-Sep-09 12:47:10

just reporting back on the ensemble thing. Dd went on Wednesday and there were about 10 kids, mostly violins, 2 celli and 1 bass (absent that day). I thought the teacher did a FANTASTIC job of it. I haven't a clue how she managed it but it was very nice, they tuned and then did some playful little musical games sittinground in a circle befor they got a piece to work on and I am not sure yet if dd will enjoy it but she enjoyed the warm up part and I think it was nice to practice with other dc doing the same thing. It makes a bit of sense out of the whole slog and practice in a way.

I wish dd's teacher put a few more playful elements like that into her regular lessons. It was quite confusing for her though she said because obviously they are not always all playing the right notes all the time and one or two had difficulty with the timing so she said it put her off a bit.

I think she quite fancies the 10 year old cellist though. He is very good looking so I think we'll be perserving with it after all. (His dad is an absolute knock-out as well mind) .

Dd's violin teacher was quite diapproving of it but I think when she thinks of pre-orchestras she is imagining the type of thing they had in Russia when she was young whihc was perhaps extremely strict and demanding. I know she told me when she was dd's age (8), she had to practcie 3 hours a day, had lessons twice a week and orchestra and choir twice a week too, all after school. She says she didn't have much childhood in the end.

What dd attended this week was much more low key and playful. We'll try it for a month and see how it goes.

trickerg Sat 05-Sep-09 17:11:38

Our Y3 cellists and violinists play in the school orchestra and often start playing in the local music centre strings orchestra in Y3/4 as an extension of this. HOWEVER!.. our strings teacher is the conductor of the orchestra and writes the beginners' music to suit the children. If your daughter was to join an established orchestra, they might not be so accommodating. I'd make some enquiries if I were you.

It is a fantastic way of learning to sight read and keep time. All the children are so surprised when their few notes, put together with all the other instruments, produce a recognisable 'whole tune'.

Our orchestra goes from strength to strength - last year we even had a Y2 boy playing the double bass - although the strength of each section varies each year, as children come and go! (The windwind section 2 years ago had 5 very proficient flautists - last year it had 4 not-so-good recorders!)

Oh...and I should add that the noise they make isn't that painful, We have even ventured out to give a concert in a local church!

ZZZenAgain Sat 05-Sep-09 18:21:39

This is outside of school trickerg, so perhaps it is a different set-up? As I understood it, the idea with this group is they move up from this strings only ensemble to another more advanced one which the same teacher leads and after that to a youth orchestra with all the usual instruments. So dd would not be in that orchestra (if she perserveres) for quite some time. Your conductor must be very good to bring all that together and preparing them to give a concert. Really I take my hat off to music teachers. I never thought about what they do much before dd started having music lessons really.

Sorry I didn't really understand what you meant in the first paragraph with making enquiries about the music scores. They just did a 3 voice Beethoven piece for strings which was very easy and she said it would get more difficult with time but she is easing the new ones into it because it is confusing at first when you are used to only playing and hearing yourself or yourself in duet with a teacher to playing, hearing yourself and hearing a lot of other instruments at the same time, not necessarily all getting it right. I think she has a good concept.

This is just an ensemble for beginners really - so for dc who have the first and second position more or less under control. I don't think it is going to be incredibly demanding, more working on timing as you said and the sociability factor is nice.

trickerg Sat 05-Sep-09 19:51:14

I just meant that our orchestra leader adapts the scores for the second and third violins to suit the players (all of whom she teaches). Obviously, the leader of an ensemble/orchestra outside of school wouldn't be able to do this so easily.

I think orchestra's great. Another added bonus is the commitment it demands of the children. They all have to realise that they are a necessary part of a team, and turn up every week for rehearsal without fail.

ZZZenAgain Sat 05-Sep-09 20:40:14

oh I see thanks

maggiethecat Mon 07-Sep-09 00:10:19

just wondering zzzen, is your dd's teacher in the Watford area?

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