Saturday, August 11, 2007

String orchestra programs: k-12, nuts and bolts

It's very tempting to turn this blog into a place for goofing off. I'm going to make an attempt at seriousness for a moment now, and see if I can make any headway.

After about two weeks, school will be in full swing again. I will be taking in a new group of students who have never touched a stringed instrument, and doing my best to get them familiar with their instruments, familiar with the repertoire they will be playing, and familiar with the countless skills they will be exercising while playing in an ensemble under a conductor.

Over the years, I've determined that it takes much more than being a proficient instrumentalist to be an effective instrumental music teacher. I would like to become more effective, and run a "very good" string program, as opposed to a "good enough" program. My goal is honestly not to create virtuoso players (though I feel the kids should have the opportunity to pursue that path if they are so inclined), but to have a program which serves the community well. More on that later.

Over the past year or so, I've been compiling this outline of what I think a "very good" string program needs to be capable of providing if it's to be of any benefit to the community over the long term. It's meant to be a dynamic document, so, please, in all seriousness, I would greatly appreciate any additions, suggestions, input or criticism anyone would like to offer. Email Me

I know this document is not incredibly reader-friendly. It is a work in progress, and I hope to update this post as my thoughts on the topic become more clear, and therefore easier to put into words. If this outline makes any sense to you, again, please help me add to it or edit it . Email Me.

Here goes:

Recommendations for building a "very good" school string program
(rough outline as of August, 2008)

I. Facility
A. Storage of instruments
B. Rehearsal space
C. performance space

II. Materials and Equipment
A. Books
1. Leveled instrument-specific methods
2. Leveled ensemble materials
B. Instruments (of appropriate size and playability)
1. acquisition
2. regular maintenance
C. Listening materials (to provide "aural model")

III. Staffing (ensure equity across schools and continuity of instruction)
A. Availability of string specialist
B. Presence of well-run, successful general music curriculum, ensuring consistent practice of musical skills away from main instrument

IV. Scheduling
A. in – school lesson time
1. group (sectional as well as full ensemble)
2. individual (or small group, instrument-specific)
B. outside programs
(community playing opportunities increase visibility and importance of program)
C. ensemble rehearsal
D. in-school performances and assemblies

V. Feeder Programs/ Previous experience (e.g. Suzuki studios)(can we create or encourage such programs? In school, through the school system, or independent?)

VI. Tracking/Leveling of groups
A. resources and opportunities for Advanced Students
B. resources for slow learners
C. solid foundation for beginners

VII. Support
A. Administrative (through scheduling, transportation, funding, availability of resources . . .)
B. Teacher (collaborative efforts, esp. important in elementary school)
C. Parental
D. Peer (program must be a positive social experience to retain membership, create environment of healthy competition, pride, . . .)

VIII. Continuity of instruction K-12
A. Methods used (method book series)
B. Expectations as related to NYSSMA leveling, national arts standards, and ASTA recommendations
C. Retention of low-performing students
D. Opportunities for advancing students
E. Expectations of department as opposed to expectations of individual teacher

IX. Essential questions

A. Why is the string program important?
B. How does it help the community, students, and schools?
C. Who is the program for? (inclusion of at-risk population vs. honors or select groups)

Email Me


Richard Prowse said...

Very interesting to read about your thoughts on how you analyse your programme.
Keep up the good work.

Stan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stan said...

You should be careful with your spelling, M. Prouse - "analyze" your "program".

I'll let it go, this time.

Richard Prowse said...

Sorry, I didn't know that the English language originated in Orange County. Are all S's to be replaced with a Z?
Does this work both ways? Do you keep animals in a soo over there? Is there a sebra at the soo? Do you have a female friend called Zusie? Do you sometimes go out on the boose? Why not randomly interchange other letters as well?
It could be the tsars of something wen! Dog bless America!