Monday, November 5, 2018

Winter Concert Programming



Winter concert elementary orchestra programming


It's that time of year to be thinking of winter concerts!  This post is brought to you courtesy of a reader wondering what to program for beginners' first concert.  (Again, thanks for reading, thanks for your question, and glad I could offer some ideas!)  At my schools, we share our winter concert with band and choir, so the entire orchestra portion (for first- and second-year players) runs about 25 minutes, for an hour-long concert total.  Orchestra students at my schools meet for small groups once a week for 30 minutes and full orchestra during recess once a week for 30 minutes, so here is the kind of music I program for our first concert of the year, given my specific situation and the pacing that allows.

Beginners:
We play about three pieces, one that's all pizzicato open strings that everyone has been playing since the first or second week of school and everyone knows really really well (like the harmony part to "Bile 'em Cabbage Down" from the Supplement Packet and I play melody on the violin), one that has a pizzicato open-string harmony part and pizzicato melody with D string notes (and then we'll play it a third time, perhaps arco, and kids can choose which part to play), and then we have a tradition of playing "Serenata" by Dale Brubaker, from his "Concert Tunes for Beginning Strings" book.  "Serenata" is all open strings, arco, and students love this piece!  By this time of the year, students have composed two pieces so far, so we'll play a pizzicato composition of D string notes for each instrument, as well.  I play piano for everything (and make up a piano part to accompany the students' compositions too).

Second Year Players:
We'll play two or three pieces, grade 1, one of which we'll be performing the following month for our district-wide String Fest, and one that is just for the winter concert.  I conduct these pieces (and have a hand ready to jump in at the piano to help support if needed).  There are always a couple of students that remark that they're playing fewer pieces than the beginners, but I tell them that theirs are much longer than the beginners' pieces, so it balances out time-wise.  The other String Fest pieces they're working on are also in various states of preparedness, and those two or three concert pieces are really what they're ready to perform for an audience at this point.

Combined Orchestras:
If the beginners are in pretty good shape with a String Fest piece by this time, we'll do one combined piece, a sort of sneak preview to String Fest, and then we always end with "Jingle Bells" before turning it over to the band.


Melody/harmony pieces for beginners:

Some winter concert pieces I've programmed for second-year players:

Combined pieces:


About a month before the concert, I send a half sheet of concert info home (and post it on our class page online).  This is the same day I invite students to decorate flyers to advertise our concert.  Please see this post for flyer and concert program templates.

At the concert, a principal or I will welcome families, and then I have students introduce each of the pieces.  This is for a couple of reasons: first, students take more ownership when it's the performers telling their families about what they're about to hear (and students get really excited to have a speaking part and talk into a microphone), and second, it gives me a chance to deal with instruments that go out of tune or bridges that fly off of instruments or bows that explode between pieces without having to make everyone wait.  If there were more time, I would have students write the speaking parts, but as it is now, I write them and students read them.

Here's a sample script of speaking parts.  In full orchestra, a couple weeks before the concert, our question of the week is to drop their name in the bucket if they would like a speaking part.  The next week, I draw names, and those kids come up and write their name on the board next to the piece they'd like to introduce.  I have the script cut into strips and give each student their part to practice.  I do print off three additional copies--one for the alternate to practice from in case anyone is absent on concert day, one to leave on the stand for kids to read off of, and one for myself so I remember who's doing what.

At the concert, I have beginners start off in the front of the orchestra (with second-year students sitting in the back of the orchestra with their stand partner).  Then the two groups switch, and the second-year students stay in the front for "Jingle Bells."  I use masking tape to tape a little name card of both sets of stand partners on each stand, so the kids know where to sit.  I make students sit with their stand partner even when they're just sitting in the back of the orchestra listening to the other orchestra play so that they know their folder of music is accounted for and because I have fewer behavior issues when students are sitting where I want them to sit :)

The last two full orchestras or so are dress rehearsals where we practice sitting in our concert seat with our concert stand partner, staying in rest position while the speaker says their part before each piece, and having our music all in order, and standing and smiling together at the end etc.

I'd be curious to hear what other teachers do for beginning orchestra concerts.  I've heard of more informances where the concert really shows families what a typical day in orchestra is like and might include showing the different warmups and such, but I haven't tried that before.  My hope is that the speaking parts give not just background information about the pieces but also what the students have learned and what to listen or watch for during the performance.  I've also heard of concerts where the students have been teaching a parent or family member how to play their instrument as the students are learning over the weeks and then there's maybe a piece on the concert where all the family members come up and play the piece that they've learned.  I haven't tried that before either, but I would be interested in hearing how that has worked out for others.  Any other ideas or formats or favorite pieces for winter concerts?

Winter concert programming ideas speaking part

Monday, October 8, 2018

Updated C Major Packet



C Major packet elementary orchestra supplement sheet music


I have updated several of my handouts of supplemental repertoire for second-year students over the summer in preparation for a few students who will be taking this class for the second (or third) time.  I wanted to give them some new pieces to learn, and I'm about ready to change things up a bit too (I did keep a few favorites like "Theme from Surprise Symphony" and "Sailor's Hornpipe").

Here's the post about the original C Major Packet.

And here are the contents of the new packet:
  • Row, Row, Row your Boat
  • Theme from Surprise Symphony
  • Zum Gali Gali
  • Sailor's Hornpipe
  • Yankee Doodle
  • Pomp and Circumstance
  • La Cucaracha
  • Blue Bells of Scotland
  • Minuet in C
I was excited to find that "Blue Bells of Scotland" was written by a woman, Dorothea Jordan--she'll be a welcome addition to our wall of composers!

Enjoy!

C Major packet elementary orchestra supplement sheet music

Monday, September 10, 2018

D Major Sheet: Audio Files for Accompaniment


Beginning orchestra audio files for D Major scale pieces

After putting together the audio files for the Orchestra Expressions supplement, I thought this audio-file accompaniment would also benefit my second-year students, so I went ahead and typed up some Finale files to correspond with their first handout of the year (the D Major sheet).  For the rounds, I created a solo version with piano accompaniment and then a round version with all string sounds.  Some pieces were exported at different tempos (named either Andante, Moderato, or Allegro) to help students at different points in their learning.

Table of Contents to D Major Sheet: Audio Files (with links)

Enjoy!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Orchestra Expressions Supplement: Audio Files for Accompaniment


Orchestra Expressions supplement audio files accompaniment


To match up with the Orchestra Expressions supplement packet that I wrote, I whipped up some accompaniment parts on Finale and exported them as audio files.  I'm hoping that students will find these pieces more attractive to practice at home when they have a piano part to play along with.  Each track begins with the sound of a triangle to show the tempo and meter, and several give options for the tempo--either a slower practice tempo or one marked "fast!"

Enjoy!

Table of Contents to Orchestra Expressions Supplement Audio Files (with links)


Orchestra Expressions supplement audio files accompaniment

Orchestra Expressions supplement audio files accompaniment


Monday, August 27, 2018

Supplement: D Major Sheet


Hallelujah D Major supplement sheet music beginning orchestra


At the beginning of the year for second-year students, I like to start with this sheet of pieces in D Major for review.  We don't get to all the pieces together in class, but it's a nice supplement for those that want extra music at home.  The D Major scale is provided as a reference on the the top of the page.  "Hallelujah" is a round that we spend quite a bit of time on during the first weeks of school.  We spot the D Major scale hiding in the second line and work on the skips in the first line.  Eventually students will get an opportunity to lead their group for the round by standing in front of the orchestra, taking a breath to start off their group, and playing along.  Over the years, I've switched out pieces here and there, so I have a couple versions of this D Major sheet.

Contents of Version 1:
  • D Major scale
  • Hallelujah!
  • A Mountain View
  • Do, Re, Mi, Fa
  • Where is John?
  • Play from "For Children"
D Major Version 1 (Word document)
D Major Version 1 (PDF)

Contents of Version 2:
  • D Major scale
  • Oats, Peas, Beans, and Barley Grow
  • Hallelujah!
  • Do, Re, Mi, Fa
  • Where is John?
  • Play from "For Children"
D Major Version 2 (Word document)
D Major Version 2 (PDF)

Contents of Version 3 (also includes a version at the end with Alpha notation):
  • D Major Scale
  • Do, Re, Mi, Fa
  • A Mountain View
  • Gopala
  • Shortnin' Bread
  • Sea Shanty
  • Hallelujah!
D Major Version 3 (Word document)
D Major Version 3 (PDF)

 Enjoy!



D Major supplement sheet music beginning orchestra


D Major supplement sheet music beginning orchestra Alpha notation


Monday, August 13, 2018

Together We Will SCALE New Heights! Bulletin Board

Together we will SCALE new heights bulletin board elementary orchestra and music





With the new school year quickly approaching, I created a bulletin board that is welcoming, punny, and music-theory based: "Together we will SCALE new heights!"

I used the same color scheme for the solfege and scales that I use in the classroom, just on a smaller scale (2-inch squares for the letter names).  Thanks to my mom for letting me use her Cricut to cut out the letters, and then here are the key signatures and images of the hand symbols.  These are the three scales we focus on in beginning orchestra as well as the first scale learned in band.

Happy school year everyone!

Together we will SCALE new heights bulletin board elementary orchestra and music


Together we will SCALE new heights bulletin board elementary orchestra and music


Together we will SCALE new heights bulletin board elementary orchestra and music


Together we will SCALE new heights bulletin board elementary orchestra and music


Together we will SCALE new heights bulletin board elementary orchestra and music


Together we will SCALE new heights bulletin board elementary orchestra and music


Together we will SCALE new heights bulletin board elementary orchestra and music



Monday, April 9, 2018

Jupiter Arrangement


Jupiter elementary orchestra arrangement sheet music


My students are learning an arrangement of "Jupiter" from The Planets by Gustav Holst, but I wasn't pleased with several aspects of it, so I arranged it myself for the next time I teach this piece.  This arrangement includes just the hymn part of "Jupiter," no introduction, and violins/violas have the melody while the cellos/basses have the harmony.  It's transposed to G Major, so low second fingers are needed, as well as E string notes for the violin (I put viola down an octave in those spots).  There are a few slurs for the upper strings and a few hooked bowings for the lower strings.  I did switch the original dotted eighths/sixteenths to even eighth notes, made the harmony part all arco instead of pizz., then arco, and I added some bow lifts that would not be in the original melody just to help students who might need an extra spot to regroup in case they get lost.

Sheet music (all PDFs):
Audio (WAV files) to preview or for students to play along with to practice:
Selected YouTube links:

Enjoy!
Jupiter elementary orchestra arrangement sheet music