Frequently Asked Questions for WMHFA Orchestra

What levels of orchestra does WMHFA offer?

West Michigan Homeschool Fine Arts has campuses in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo that provide instruction in orchestra, as well as band, colorguard, choirs and more. There are three levels of orchestra which begin for students nine-years-old and continue through high school.

Our Beginning Orchestra class starts at the very basic level and after one year the students are able to play while watching a conductor, play simple harmonies/polyphonies, and have a rudimentary understanding of written sheet music.

Our intermediate-level orchestra is the Philharmonia Orchestra which covers intermediate skills of string playing like shifting, introductory vibrato, intonation through scales and ensemble playing.

Our Chamber Strings is our most advanced group playing repertoire at the high school level. In recent years we have performed Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Tchaikovsky’s Serenade, Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 and J.S. Bach’s original Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 to name a few. This group is an audition-only group and details can be found at wmhfa.org or by contacting Karin Code, Director of Orchestras in Kalamazoo, kcode@wmhfa.org


WMHFA orchestra was the highlight of my daughter's week. She grew as a musician under Mrs. Code's teaching and directing. She also grew meaningful and long-lasting friendships within the group. WMHFA orchestras provide a joy-filled music experience...and that is just as it should be!

~Mom of a WMHFA Orchestra graduate~

How do I sign up for an audition or register for a class?

See our website wmhfa.org

What do I need to play for my audition?

For returning/entering Philharmonia Orchestra: a solo, sight-reading and these scales C, G, F, and D Major scales--two octaves

For returning/entering Chamber Strings Orchestra: a solo, sight-reading and these scales C, G, F, D and Bb Major scales--three octaves (basses 2-octave) plus a, e, b, d and g melodic minor scales--three octaves (basses 2-octave)

Note: Students with ongoing private lessons are prioritized in the selection process.

Where can I find a solo piece?

Check out the websites 8notes.com imslp.org or music-scores.com

Where can I find fingerings for the scales?

Check out stringskills.com for 2-octave scale fingerings

How can I practice sight-reading?

Check out the websites 8notes.com imslp.org or music-scores.com. You can also play pieces out of your class book Sound Innovations for practice.

How can I help my child choose which instrument to play?

Playing a string instrument is a joy and a challenge. The first thing to consider is your child's coordination skills because strings use many movements that require precision and finesse. Generally speaking, kids with great hand-eye coordination have an innate aptitude towards strings. The second thing to consider is your child's ability to recognize pitch differences. This can be determined during the Instrument Fitting Quiz. Since there are no keys or buttons to push on a string instrument, finding the correct note requires a "good ear" and the ability to match a pitch.

Where can we find a violin to rent or buy?

If you are new to the violin, you might be tempted to buy one of the low-priced violins advertised all over the Internet – by low-priced I mean anything under about $175-$200. Don't do it! Having a cheap violin will make an already-difficult skill even more difficult to learn and will cause persistent frustration in your practice. Your violin will refuse to be in tune, the angle and placement of the strings will be off, the tone of the instrument will be squeaky and unappealing, and the tuners will likely bend and break. It will inevitably take valuable time from the teacher to adjust each week. I use Shar Music for rentals www.sharmusic.com

Is it OK for my child to use a bright colored violin?

We recommend natural, wood instruments for tone and uniformity. Sorry no colors.

What if my child is already doing Prep Orchestra or Junior Symphony?

We don't necessarily see WMHFA as a substitute for these groups. WMHFA fulfills their requirement of school participation.

Should my child do KJSO or WMHFA or both?

Here are some benefits to remaining in Chamber Strings

- Christian fellowship with friends through music

- Important strings-only orchestra repertoire and detailed string skills focus

- Frequent leadership roles

- Opportunities for student solos, concertos

- Use of our professional level CodaBows

What is SmartMusic?

SmartMusic is an internet/web-based program that allows your child to play his/her part along with a recording of the piece. The program gives them feedback about what things they need to fix regarding pitch and rhythm. You need a microphone to be able to use this app. All families enrolled in our program receive a free subscription to the service. Please ask Scott March for complete details on how to sign up for your subscription.