Each year the Orchestra students will prepare and perform a Winter Concert, and a Spring Concert. These two concerts are where all of the evidence can be seen- they're a big part of what we work toward each semester: learning the skills necessary to put the songs together, and then working and rehearsing each piece until the day of the concert. Then, on the night of the concert we play each of those songs one last time for an audience of family, friends, and other students in order to carry on the tradition of performing live music in a concert hall. The concert at the end of each semester is as important as final exam, and in many ways it is the final exam. So, it's important for students to attend the concerts and to perform to the best of their ability.
SCHS Orchestra Students are provided a dress/tuxedo to use for the school year. Part of the fee involved with Orchestra is to help pay for dry cleaning of these outfits. Students will need to have black shoes, and black socks; boys should have a white t-shirt to wear under their tuxedo shirt. Students are responsible for their outfits during the year and will check them back in at the end of the year. Students should take delicate care of these outfits, since they can last for years.
5th - 8th Graders Concert Attire: Students are requested to dress up, wear dark colors, and ideally do not wear jeans, t-shirts or tennis shoes. There's a seriousness that comes with dressing up, and I think that's why musicians traditionally dress for the occasion. Darker colors distract less than brighter colors, and the focus should really be on the music anyway.
"Do we have to have our own instrument to be in Orchestra?" "I need your advice on what to look for in an instrument." "Does the school have something we could use for a year or two?"
As you might imagine, I receive lots of questions, especially from new Orchestra students and their families about instruments. I will try to answer a few questions about instruments:
The school district has been very generous the last three years, allowing the Orchestra department to purchase several new supplemental stringed instruments- violins, violas, cellos, and basses. This has been necessary because of the influx of new Orchestra members in each grade level. These instruments are checked out to students at the beginning of the year, and a contract is signed by the parent/guardian assuming responsibility for any damages that may occur while in the student's possession. Normal 'wear and tear' are acceptable, but when the instrument becomes damaged the student's family is asked to have the instrument repaired at any Sedalia music store. Currently, there is no time limit for how long students can borrow a district instrument. It's my hope that students who do well with a 'school instrument' will eventually be rewarded with an instrument of their own.
I strongly recommend students having their own instrument, if at all possible. Students connect with their instrument when it's their very own instrument. There is also an investment by the family when students have their own instrument, and the family often helps the aspiring musician realize that they should practice regularly and take great care of their instrument.
There are obviously many choices to consider when buying an instrument. Yes, there are "great deals" online that usually result in "less-than-great" instruments, usually not set up (strings have to be put on, the bridge needs to be set, positioned and adjusted), etc. There are also three great music stores in Sedalia and they each offer stringed instruments, have deals, and would love to have your business. The local stores will not only help you find the right sized instrument (with the strings on it and everything) they can also usually help you find something within your budget. And, they're right in town if you need to have a string put on, or need to pick up a String Basics book, or rosin, or a new set of strings, etc. I highly recommend visiting the stores and getting to know the people who run and own them.
There are other options, like Craigslist, eBay, or other local online trading sites. I would use caution when looking at instruments from any of these kind of options, unless you're pretty familiar with stringed instruments- even then it can be a gamble. It's hard to get enough knowledge without holding the instrument in your hands and examining it in person. There are also many toy violins that almost pass for the real thing, but are not. Occasionally there are some truly good deals through auction or trading sites, but not every time!
Practicing is absolutely crucial to becoming a musician. If you don't practice, you won't become a musician.
The best musicians are the musicians who have practiced the most.
There is no substitute for hard work.
There's also no substitute for consistency and regularity - it's better to practice eight-and-a-half minutes every day than an hour on Sunday (8.5 minutes x 7 days=59.5 minutes).
Most of the time, if you practice eight-and-a-half minutes, you'll want to keep practicing. Because it's fun.
It's okay to practice in "chunks": five minutes of focused practice, like on reading music for example, and then take a break. Let your mind go completely away from music for a few minutes. Then come back and spend another five minutes really focused. Over the course of an hour, you'll be surprised by how much you can learn.
It takes 21 days form a habit, or so they say. Students who practice even five minutes every day will truly get into the "habit" of becoming a really good musician. And they'll want to practice every day because it's an enjoyable growing experience.