Join the Orchestra!

Orchestra Informational Video

 What is Elementary Orchestra?

It is a special, elective class in which 4th and 5th  grade students get to take small group lessons to learn the violin, viola, cello, or bass. During the school year the orchestra students perform concerts to demonstrate their progress, have fun, and to share their music with friends, family, and teachers. All middle school students must take Orchestra, Band, or Choir in Middle School, so now is the best time to start learning an instrument. The district offers elementary, middle, and high school level orchestra classes. Students can continue orchestra throughout elementary, middle, and high school in our district.

Many students in the Orchestra program enjoy and discover a new world of challenges in school and in learning. They explore personal growth, gain new learning and artistic experiences, and they make and sustain friendships throughout their involvement in learning a musical instrument. It is a wonderful opportunity that they won't want to miss!


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What are the instruments can you start learning in Elementary Orchestra ?

Violin (or fiddle)

The violin is the smallest and the highest pitched instrument in the string orchestra - the soprano voice of the string family. It is well known for its brilliant and beautiful tone quality. The violin is held under the chin and supported by the player’s left shoulder. An orchestra uses more violins than any other instrument, thus we always have need for more violin players. The violin is different than the viola in these ways: the violin is smaller, has a higher register, and reads the treble clef.


The viola resembles the violin, but is slightly larger in size. Many people assume the violin and the viola are the same instrument. They are not! The viola reads a different clef than the violin. The viola reads the alto clef and the violin reads the treble clef. Students will have a hard time switching from viola to violin or vice versa due to the clef differences. The viola produces a lower sound, similar to the alto voice of a choir. Its mellow tone quality adds a unique dimension to the orchestra. The violas are held similar to the violin. Good violists are always in demand in various performing groups!


The violoncello, commonly called the cello, has a beautiful tone, which gives the orchestra a rich, full sound. It produces a wide range of pitches and is equally popular as a solo and orchestral instrument. The cello can be compared to the tenor voice of a choir. It is supported on an endpin which rests on the floor, and the cello is always played while seated. The cello reads the bass clef.


The Double Bass has a deep rich, dark sound, which gives the orchestra a solid foundation. It can play the lowest notes in the orchestra. A very versatile instrument, it can be used in variety of groups, from a symphony orchestra to a jazz group. It is closely related to the electric bass guitar, which a good bass player can learn very quickly. The bass is the largest instrument of the string family and it can be played in either a sitting or standing position. The bass reads the bass clef, but sounds an octave lower than what is actually written.
What if my child already plays one of these instruments?
Awesome! Please sign up, as we accommodate and challenge all levels of players, from the first day student to advanced students who may for example already be taking private lessons or who may be performing in GTCYS (Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies) and MYS (Minnesota Youth Symphonies).

What does Orchestra cost?

Private music lessons can cost $20-40 per half hour a week just for instruction. The semi-private, small group music lessons offered through your school are free! You only provide the materials for the lessons, listed below. Interested students who are Free or Reduced Lunch should contact the Orchestra director for special information for their situation.


For Orchestra, students will need the necessary supplies to be successful:

 •High-quality rented or purchased Instrument in good working condition

•Accessories: Rosin and cleaning cloth

•Accessory for only Violins and Violas: Shoulder Sponge or rest

•Accessory for only Cellos and Basses: Rock Stop

•Essential Elements 2000 Method Book 1 for your instrument (look on the top of the book)

•Hardcover, medium thickness 3-ring binder with pockets


•Trimmed left hand fingernails

 These materials can be found at any of our local music stores.

Is my child required to take orchestra?

No, the elementary orchestra program is an elective program so your child chooses to be involved with your permission. Middle school students are required to take band, orchestra, or choir for all three years of middle school.


Why does my child have 3 options for an instrument choice when joining?

When students register for orchestra in elementary school, we encourage your child to state their top three choices on the registration form for new students because we need to make sure we have a balanced instrumentation for the new students entering in the program.  For example, we cannot have 2 violins and 35 cellos.  We need a balance between how many students play an instrument.  We try to honor your child's first choice, but there are times were we have to give them their second choice.  If you have any questions about your child's instrument choice, contact the appropriate orchestra director.


When will I receive confirmation on which instrument my child will play when joining?

Once elementary registration forms are submitted, the orchestra director will contact you and/or your child with a confirmation of your child's instrument by giving your child a YELLOW “Instrument Confirmation” handout at school.


How do I know what size of instrument my child needs?

The orchestra director sizes elementary students during the registration period or as needed. Music stores can also size students for instruments.

Also see our district sizing guide for guidelines.

How many concerts do the students have each year?

We have 2-3 performances each year: 1 fall concert, 1 spring concert, and often, 1 late spring Solo and Ensemble Recital, Solo Project, or Solo and Ensemble Festival.

 See the calendar for a complete list of orchestra events.

If my child chooses cello or bass, how to they get it to school?

Elementary cello students will need to have their instrument dropped off in the morning and picked up after school. Some bus drivers do allow cellos on busses, but generally it is a district policy that cellos and basses are not allowed on district busses. Instruments should not be stored at school, they should be kept at home for daily practice and only brought to school on lesson days (usually once per week). The exception to that is if students play bass (and some cello students), the school provides a lesson bass or cello so these very large instruments do not get brought back and forth from home every week. Students are expected to bring/use their own instruments from home for our concerts.


When does my child receive lessons?

Elementary students receive lessons once a day, during the school day. Students leave their class and come to the orchestra room for 30 minutes to receive a small group instruction with students who play the same instrument and are at the same ability level.  Once a week the advanced students have a 30-40 minute group rehearsal.  The orchestra director determines the times for the lessons and rehearsals with the classroom teachers. Students are responsible for making up any missed work.

 Lesson schedules are posted at school, and can be printed out from the schedule page.

What are the at-home practicing expectations?

Students are required to practice at least 15 minutes per day, at least 5 days per week. Just like any sport, participants will not improve their skills without regular practice. Practicing is just like homework from any other class. It reinforces the learned skills from the lesson as well as continually maintains muscular memory in the fingers, arms, and hands and helps keep brain connections fluent on the new material and skills that a musician is working on. Before registering for orchestra, students and parents should discuss the expectations of practicing and being in the program and the dedication and effort that is involved. Please contact the director if you have questions about practice expectations or would like advice on setting up a practice routine.


What if my child is switching schools for next year?

Please fill out the registration form and turn it into your child's orchestra teacher at their current school.  The orchestra teacher will forward it to your child's new school.


What are private lessons and does my child need them?

Private lessons are extra lessons that take place outside of the school day.  The lessons are taught by a string specialist in your area. Your child will receive a one-on-one ("private") lesson with the instructor. Some teachers teach a different method than our Essential Elements curriculum, so your child may have more to practice if they take private lessons. Some teachers are willing to help your child on their school orchestra material also.  Each instructor charges their own rate and most of them have more performing opportunities for your child (i.e. recitals, competitions, etc.). Private lessons are not required for our district orchestra program; they are optional but highly recommended!  They are definitely a great way to enhance your child's musical skills and techniques on a one-on-one basis.

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New Student Orchestra Enrollment Form