Monday, January 7, 2019

String Fest Seating Chart Template



String Fest seating chart template and illustration


Our annual district-wide String Fest is a big event for us to plan.  One part of the planning process is figuring out where each of the 200+ elementary string players will sit in our giant combined orchestra.  We want kids to share a stand with someone from their school but to sit near kids from other schools.  We place second-year players in the front rows of the orchestra and first-year players in the back few rows.  I'm not quite sure of the magic number of chairs/stands per row regarding space, so some rows end up being a little roomier than others--or we may rearrange a bit once we see everything set up in the field house--but at least we have a pretty close idea of where everyone will end up from the start.

This is pretty much my step-by-step process:

1. Determine number of students per instrument per grade level per school.
2. Draw orchestra seating chart, using dashes for stands (use pencil!).
3. Add dividing lines with colored pencil to show the different instrument sections and grade levels.
4. Number each stand from left to right for each row (violin side to cello side). 
5. Write in school abbreviations for each stand, trying to be equal about school representation in the front row and outside stands (if there is an odd number of students at a school within a section, use a dash to pair up students from two different schools).
6. Include total number of chairs and stands per row at the bottom of the page.
7. Make a copy of the Google doc template, and then update the number of chairs per instrument/section/row in the copied document.
8. Change the font for the seat numbers (1A., 1B., etc.) to correspond with each of the schools.
9. Scan seating chart and share that and the Google doc with all orchestra teachers.
10. Now each teacher can add their students' names to the Google doc.

String Fest seating chart template

I do show students ahead of time where they'll sit and by whom, but then I also make name cards to tape on the music stands.  I use the following Word document with Word's "mail merge" feature (Mailings/Start Mail Merge/Step-by-Step Mail Merge Wizard) to pull student names/instrument/grade level from an Excel sheet of my rosters.  I'll also include an image of the school mascot to help students more quickly spot their own name card.  And then, of course, I do color-code the cards by instrument.  When printing, be sure to choose "2 pages per sheet."  One of these years I will type up the row and seat number in the roster to include with the mail merge, but so far I've just been hand-writing the row and seat number on each card.  I put the name cards in numerical order (by row, then seat number), and then it's quick work to set them on the proper stand and tape them up the day-of.

String Fest name card template



String Fest seating chart template and illustration


String Fest seating chart template and illustration


String Fest seating chart template and illustration


String Fest seating chart template and illustration


Friday, December 28, 2018

Have a Punny New Year! Bulletin Board


Have a punny new year musical bulletin board for elementary orchestra


Happy New Year!  For this year's January bulletin board, I'm departing from my usual informational sort of theme and trying out the humorous route.  The internet is a wealth of musical puns, and I also included a couple of jokes where you can lift the flap to see the answer.

"Have a punny new year!" heading, images, jokes, and sources




Have a punny new year musical bulletin board for elementary orchestra


Have a punny new year musical bulletin board for elementary orchestra


Have a punny new year musical bulletin board for elementary orchestra


Have a punny new year musical bulletin board for elementary orchestra


Have a punny new year musical bulletin board for elementary orchestra


Have a punny new year musical bulletin board for elementary orchestra


Have a punny new year musical bulletin board for elementary orchestra


Have a punny new year musical bulletin board for elementary orchestra


Monday, December 10, 2018

D String Notes Packet--Audio Files


D string notes packet supplement and audio files for beginning orchestra


In keeping with my theme of updating supplements to include audio files, here are the audio files for the packet of music that uses notes on the D string.


And here's the link to the original post about this packet of music.

D string notes packet supplement and audio files for beginning orchestra

D string notes packet supplement and audio files for beginning orchestra

Monday, November 26, 2018

Updated Winter Packets (plus audio files)



winter packet sheet music and audio files for beginning orchestra


I often have one or two students who enter fifth grade already having studied a string instrument privately for a couple of years.  I have the flexibility to add them to sixth grade orchestra as fifth graders, which better meets their needs.  However, this means that those students take sixth grade orchestra twice.  Concert repertoire changes every year, more or less, but the packets of additional repertoire hasn't always.  This year I figured it was time to switch up the winter packet for the students in the second-year orchestra.  I've also been on a kick with creating audio files in Finale so students can play along with accompaniment at home, so I did that to these too.  Each piece has audio files in at least three different tempos.  The packet for first-year string players is the same as before; I've just added audio files.


Winter packet (for first-year string players):

Contents:
  1. Jolly Old Saint Nicholas
  2. Good King Wenceslas
  3. Up on the Housetop
  4. Overture to The Nutcracker
  5. Carol of the Bells
  6. Here We Come A-Caroling

Winter packet--revised version (for second-year string players):

Contents:
  1. Jolly Old Saint Nicholas (duet)
  2. God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen (duet)
  3. Sivivon Sov Sov Sov (A two-part round)
  4. Winter Is Coming (A three-part round)
  5. Over the River and Through the Wood
  6. Auld Lang Syne
  7. "March" from The Nutcracker
  8. Troika
  9. Carol of the Bells

Winter packet--original version (for second-year string players)


Enjoy!

winter packet sheet music and audio files for beginning orchestra



winter packet sheet music and audio files for beginning orchestra


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!