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Does anyone have a school orchestra in their primary school?

(16 Posts)
linglette Sun 01-Nov-09 19:28:50

We are in the very very early stages of forming a music group at our school. The ultimate aim would be to have a school orchestra.

Is this aiming too high? Lots of the children who have come to the music group so far are guitar or keyboard players rather than string players.

We've identified three parents who can play a string trio (two violins plus cello) - has anyone tried exposing the children more regularly to live classical music?

schilke Sun 01-Nov-09 20:15:52

Ds2 has a school orchestra - about 15 children. Ds2 plays violin - I think there are about 3 violins, lots of recorders and guitars, one trumpet and a couple of keyboards. Last year, when ds1 was still there, there were 2 trumpets, trombone and saxophone.

One of the class teachers runs it after school. The teacher is so enthusiastic and the children love it. Dh (brass teacher) goes along to help.

You're unlikely to ever get a good mix of instruments at primary level.

I think the teacher uses musicbyarrangement website - you can specify 20 guitars and 1 flute or whatever you have etc.. A few pieces on there are free.

trickerg Sun 01-Nov-09 21:23:21

We have had an orchestra for about 8 years. At the moment, we have around 25 children in it from Y3 to Y6. Luckily, our most successful peripatetic teachers have always been the strings teachers, which, of course, forms the backbone of the orchestra. Luckily, we have always had at least 2 children who can play an able 1st violin by Y6!

There are recorders, flutes, sax, clarinet, and some rather enthusiastic trumpeters! Unfortunately we lost 6 y6 flautists 2 years ago who ranged from Grade2-5, so we noticed the difference!

Our orchestra leader is also the strings peri, and she writes parts to match ability. Orchestra IS NOT compulsory, so it does rely on the keenness of the children.

I bash out the piano part, which generally keeps it all rolling along (If I can work out the timing!).

We have recently started to branch out with concerts out of school and to the local community (in addition to school events), as we are very proud of what we've built up. Every year is different, as children come and children go - particularly at our school as we are also at the mercy of the RAF!

Recently, we have recruited two mums - one to help cellos/recorders and one to help trumpet/clarinet/flute. (Our cellos need pinning down as they're always off to the toilet!!) This is a great help as the orchestra leader can concentrate on pulling the whole thing together.

We are also very lucky to have some able drum players at school, and having a loud beat helps keep everyone together.

We love it - I think it sounds fantastic, whatever instrument mix we have!

What instruments do you have available? What abilities? Have you seen any of the Kaleidoscope arrangements?

Hulababy Sun 01-Nov-09 22:06:37

DD's prep school has an orchestra. About 70% of junior aged pupils play an instrument, and all play at least the recorder. The orchestra does very well. The practise seperately as string group, wind group, etc. and as a whole. There is also a choir, which all pupils in juniors is part of.

The instruments played are varied but not as much so as at secondary esp as it is a small school. And the orchestra ncludes all levels and peices are selected to enable it to be inclusive, with different parts for different groups and abilities.

TheFallenMadonna Sun 01-Nov-09 22:10:31

DC's school has an orchestra. And a recorder group hmmgrin, and two choirs.

marialuisa Mon 02-Nov-09 08:24:02

Yes, first orchestra (G3 up), "training" orchestra and other ensembles run by the Music department. The main orchestra is a traditional set up, so no guitars or keyboards though. It's a big school and music is promoted heavily.

linglette Mon 02-Nov-09 09:59:36

Very helpful - I will do a bit more research on the ground and come back on this.

We won't have the same number of string players as a a prep school - we are state primary - in a posh area and with quite a wide demographic. But that's fine......

Do you think it would be useful to send a letter out to all parents simply to identify (i) parents (esp. dads) who can play and would be willing to do a one-off demo or occasional orchestra help and (ii) which kids are having lessons (many will be having private lessons of course rather than school peripatetic).

My next-door-neighbour is a private violin teacher and she tells me that it can be surprisingly hard to integrate the kids who are having private lessons into school-based performances. This is where a couple of energetic parents could come in handy I guess- we've already achieved this for school running club which had been moribund but now thrives.

JeffVadar Mon 02-Nov-09 16:43:27

When I was at primary school we had an orchestra, and DS's school has one too (although they have children up to 13 years).

I don't think you are being too ambitious, you just adapt what you play according to how good your players are. It gives the children such a boost - playing music with others is the most fun thing!

It is a lot of work, but really worthwhile. Best of luck!!

trickerg Mon 02-Nov-09 18:49:10

Ours is state primary too. I think its great for the children to realise that their small seemingly boring part, put together with the rest, makes up this incredible tune! Great for teamwork - they are ALL necessary!

You do need a disciplined and hard-working leader. They will need to adapt parts and also be able to control the foibles of 20+ children 'who don't understand'. We have been through several, some more successful than others.

Why not send out a letter asking who would be interested in joining the orchestra, with a note asking if any parents are willing to offer regular help? That's how we started - that way you can at least work out the level of interest, capability of players and mix of instruments.

Just go for it!!!

madamearcati Mon 02-Nov-09 19:28:56

MY DC's old primary school had an orchestra because it was quite a big school.But when they changed it to a big band it was perceived as way cooler by the kids and they were much more willing to participate and it was generally much easier to run ! They had arrangements which incorporated strings and in fact virtually every instrument.They went on to win national competitions

linglette Mon 02-Nov-09 19:38:16

"when they changed it to a big band it was perceived as way cooler by the kids"

hmmm, that's a good point, maybe we should call it a band not an orchestra!

BrigitBigKnickers Mon 02-Nov-09 19:52:55

I have run a school orchestra for 20 years! The range of instruments varies greatly from year to year. A few years ago I had 7 clarinets, 2 saxs and 5 flutes. This year I have 2 flutes and 1 clarinet. We have quite a few children who have peri lessons and I usually say when they know 8 notes they can join.

At the moment in addition to recorders and guitars I have lots of tuned percussions players. I am very keen on trying to include as many kids in group music playing as I can so if I or a class teacher notice a kid in a class lesson who seems to have an aptitude for music I will invite them to join. we also have a huge number of keyboard players at our school and they often play glocks too- it's just not practical to have 10 keyboards in an orchestra.

I arrange the music specifically for them and their abilities. My present guitar and flute parts are written on two levels as they are two grades apart in ability.

I involve them in choosing the music they play. They can play lots of the songs we sing in assembly and in the big music festival we do each year we often play pop songs that are current in the charts.

I use sybelius to arrange the parts and quite often use downloaded midi files as a backing track to practise with. This is very useful as I can project the parts onto my interactive white board and they can all see how the parts work together while they are listening to the arrangement. Sybelius also enables you to print the letter names under the notes so children who don't read music that well can join in more quickly.

Although they are rarely of a high standard technically they always sound absolutely brilliant as the parts are tailor made for them.

For the purpose of reheasal I usually split the group into two halves and each group practises once a week. I find this works well as they don't have to sit around for too long waiting while I practice sections with one or two instruments. WHen they are confident with a piece I will bring them back together.

trickerg Mon 02-Nov-09 21:15:10

Our leader has just started using sybelius too. ( are you secondary bbk? Not sure ours would understand the parts on the IWB! )

Another thing we do at primary is involve the choir, and get them to join in with the orchestra.

One year, we played Pennsylvania 65000, and all the instrumentalists downed tools and shouted 'Pennsylvania 65000' when appropriate!

''Although they are rarely of a high standard technically they always sound absolutely brilliant as the parts are tailor made for them.''

I agree with bbk here - none of our orchestra would pass the G+T litmus test, but they do learn to count and play together, which is what most people do when they play an instrument. There aren't many opportunities for soloists out there.

Oh, and another MASSIVE advantage is the time-saving in the summer concert. Soloists are kept to a minimum, as it is so much more pleasant hearing them play in bulk. (When I first started at the school, we used to have solo after solo (a particularly morose girl playing 'Ode to Joy' springs to mind!) Now, we have 4-6 orchestra/ orchestra+ choir pieces, a few instrumental ensembles, a handchimes special, and bob's your uncle - out by 7:30pm - everyone with a smiley face and happy ears!

Littlefish Mon 02-Nov-09 21:55:20

SmartieJake runs an orchestra too.

At one of my previous schools, we had an incredibly successful orchestra.

In a school of 420(ish), over 100 children had peripatetic music lessons, plus a number who had lessons outside school. Many of the children reached grade 5 and above by Year 6.

We had:

School Orchestra (led by external paid teacher)
4 x recorder groups (led by me, or parent volunteers)
KS2 choir (115 children at its peak grin - led by me)
KS1 choir (Yr 1 & 2 - led by me)
Yr 6 choir (led by me)
Peripatetic lessons in violin, cello, woodwind, brass, guitar

Basically, I gave up 4 lunchtimes a week to run music clubs.

Music had a very high profile within the school and the standard we reached was extremely high.

BrigitBigKnickers Mon 02-Nov-09 22:04:14

trickerg No I am in a junior school and my orchestra are aged between 8 and 11.

The parts have the letter names underneath and quite a few of them who learn instruments can follow the parts (I tend to slow the tempo down for rehearsal)

Hi Littlefish! (I used to be smartiejake- name changed a while ago)Grade 5 by the end of year 6!!! Wow I can only remember one child who ever reached those heights by that age.

Littlefish Mon 02-Nov-09 22:14:02

Hi Smartiejake - I didn't realise you'd name changed! I should have known you'd find your way onto this thread smile

It was a very high achieving school with lots of children with very, very, very supportive and high achieving parents! Our higher grade children tended to be those who were doing lessons outside school, rather than with our peripatetic teachers.

Children who learned in school would generally reach grade 3 (or lower) by the end of yr 6.

I completely agree with Trickberg re. summer concerts. Having the children play in groups was such a bonus! Before I started my job there, I went to a summer concert which lasted for nearly 3 hours ! ! !

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