Prerequisite: 8th Grade Orchestra or equivalent ensemble instruction
The string orchestra is open to all string students in grades 9-12, who are interested in playing intermediate to advanced orchestral literature. Special attention will be given to developing and strengthening string techniques, and performance skills. The string orchestra performs at the winter and spring concerts, and occasionally throughout the community. The Concert Orchestra is required to attend all rehearsals held outside of school time.
Welcome, freshmen. This is the first year that we have had this orchestra at the high school. A little history to help understand this course's function in the music department:
RHS used to only have a String Orchestra that was not auditioned, and a Chamber Orchestra that was. Both met as a class. Eventually, the stigma of the "bad orchestra" and the "good orchestra" developed, which proved perilous for both programs, and they both nearly imploded. By spring 2012, the entire grade 9-12 orchestra program at RHS consisted of less than 30 kids. Chamber Orchestra was eliminated as a course.
I came to the high school in the fall of 2012 and changed the course to be called Symphonic Orchestra. Like the middle school, we played full orchestra repertoire with wind players from band. The strings rehearsed as a class and the winds rehearsed as a club, and we combined for a few rehearsals before the concert. That is still the format that course uses. Unlike the middle school, the RHS Symphonic Orchestra did not require an audition...until recently. Thankfully, the majority of the kids that continued into orchestra at the high school were advanced players from the Symphonic and Chamber in middle school, but over time that changed a little bit too.
Symphonic Orchestra at RHS became far too large with a far too wide range of ability, and it presented balance issues. While the quality of the group has steadily improved over all, its progress was impeded by its gargantuan size. Finally, there were over 100 string players in the orchestra, and something had to give...
So we decided it was time to once again have two orchestras at RHS, but without repeating the mistakes of the past. If the auditioned group simply took all of the "good players", we would be right back to the issues that caused the program's near demise. For overall program health, it is important to have accomplished players in each group, but to still have them be balanced and tiered for homogeneously. This course will have a heavy concentration on developing the fundamentals of string pedagogy and cultivating leadership from its more experienced players. Those of you that fall into this category will learn valuable leadership skills...such as how to run sectionals and lead your peers. You will take more ownership of your group by coming up with your own fingerings and bowings, and learn how to manage people and run some of the administration part. These are essential skills needed to participate in Symphonic Orchestra as a leader and this new orchestra gives you an opportunity to develop them earlier than waiting until you're an upperclassman.
The rest of you are undoubtedly also very competent players who love music, or you wouldn't be here. Gone are the kids that sat next to you in 8th grade who didn't really care. You will get the opportunity to further develop your skills in this group and play music that is a definite step up from any of the middle school groups. This will be a great stepping stone so that if you decide to be in Symphonic one day, you will be comfortable and able to handle it. And if you decide to stay here, that's cool too.
Collaborations with Symphonic Orchestra
This group will own its own repertoire at the fall and spring concert. However, you will perform side by side with the Symphonic Orchestra at the Orchestra Festival in January and at the Pops Concert in June. In these instances you will get the chance to play full orchestra repertoire with winds, and the music is super fun (particularly for the pops concert where we do jazz numbers, film scores, and pop arrangements).
There are a lot of cool experiences set up for you guys this year, and I am really excited to get to know all of you!