Orchestra/Choir 9

Freshmen who are participating in chorus and orchestra may elect to register for one semester credit of orchestra and attend rehearsal on an alternating schedule with chorus. This option may not be used to register for orchestra and study hall.

Students in orchestra will focus on the study and public performance of classical, jazz, and popular music. Basic elements of music theory, instrumental technique, music history and aesthetic or stylistic considerations of music performance will be examined. All orchestra students will be expected to perform in evening concerts, contests and to attend small group or individual lessons outside of class time.

RENTAL FEE: $55.00 per year for use of school instruments (cello or bass) .

Orchestra and Orchestra 9 are design to develop the skills of the intermediate string player. The goal of the class is to improve foundation skills, and to perform a variety of literature, including appropriate works from the standard orchestral repertoire. Performance opportunities will include large group string and symphonic orchestras, small ensembles and solos. The course is designed to develop the skills students will need in order to play in college or adult orchestras. In all respects, orchestra can be considered an area of lifelong learning and enjoyment.

The musical skills studied in this course are best described by category. Over the course of the year, the techniques taught in each category move from general to increasingly more specific. The model for this curriculum might best be thought of as a spiral, where topics are revisited in circular fashion. Each revolution moves upward toward more specific and higher order skills.

Each category should be considered a necessary component of advanced, artist-level string playing.

Left Hand Skills

Left hand skills encompass all of the necessary movements the left hand must make in orchestral playing. In Orchestra and Orchestra 9, students will study advanced left hand skills in detail. During the course students will:

  • Be introduced to vibrato.
  • Shift into upper positions. Execute shifting motions required by much of the literature performed.
  • Drill and memorize required finger patterns, learning their relationships to scales and keys.
  • Perform and work toward memorization of two octave scales.
  • Apply knowledge—determine fingerings, keys, scales, and positions best used in the specific musical excerpt to be performed.

Right Hand Skills

Right hand skills refer to all of the skills the student must know and be able to perform using the bow. Orchestra and Orchestra 9 members will work toward mastery of bow basics and move toward advanced bow technique. During the course, students will:

  • Refine basic bow strokes for best tone production.
  • Continue to develop an understanding of the relationships between speed, weight, and placement of the bow.
  • Be introduced to advanced bow skills such as accented strokes and off-string strokes required by the literature.
  • Practice all of the skills listed above in combination for maximum control over volume, expression, and artistic sound production.
  • Apply knowledge: Students will be involved in the decision making process—learning to select the best combination of right hand techniques for the musical excerpt to be performed.

Rhythmic Skills

All of the orchestras at Hastings High School utilize a system of rhythm reading that incorporates Kodaly syllables. Orchestra and Orchestra 9 students will continue developing rhythm performance skills through:

  • Sight-reading excerpts.
  • Playing with a metronome at various speeds and in various meters.
  • Chanting, clapping and air bowing rhythms.
  • Chanting the rhythms of each section’s parts in orchestral literature simultaneously (i.e. first violins, second violins, violas, cellos, basses).
  • Making transfers to more traditional numeric counting in preparation for college playing or adult ensembles.

Music Reading and Performance Skills

Music reading skills represent the applied combination of all the factors described in the preceding categories. Orchestra and Orchestra 9 members develop their music reading skills through:

  • Sight-reading examples performed in class.
  • Rhythmic exercises, shifting exercises, technique centered etudes, and chorales that make up part of the weekly rehearsal process.
  • Problem solving study and spot-work on specific orchestral excerpts, which are then reincorporated into the work being performed.
  • Study and performance of a wide variety of literature in large ensemble.
  • Performance as part of a small ensemble without a conductor.
  • Learning to perform as a soloist with piano accompaniment.

Style and Interpretation Skills

All music students must learn about the historical context, and common stylistic idioms in works from all periods of music. For example, a Mozart symphony (from the Classical period, by a German composer) would be performed very differently than a Tchaikovsky symphony (from the Romantic period, by a Russian composer). The musical notation, however, would look very much the same in both works! Musicians study historical context, and musical style periods to know how works from many different times and places are properly interpreted and performed. This area of study brings the students from novice to artist level players. Orchestra and Orchestra 9 students will:

  • Perform a wide variety of orchestral literature in numerous styles and from various time periods in three to four performances each school year.
  • Be involved in the decision making process—choosing those technical skills that best produced the desired musical results.
  • Learn about the historical period of each work, its place in time and in world history.
  • Study the types of musical style features common in works from the period.
  • Listen to recorded examples of works to be studied.

Audiation Skills

Audiation is defined as the ability to “assimilate and comprehend in our minds music we have just heard or performed.” We are also audiating music when we comprehend in our minds music that we have not yet heard, but are reading in notation, or composing, or improvising. (Gordon, 2000, p. 9). Audiation, then, represents the very highest order of musical skill—the incorporation, and utilization of all of the other facets previously described. Audiation skills form to varying degrees within individuals, based on aptitude, and seriousness in pursuing applied music study. Orchestra and Orchestra 9 students will be given opportunities to develop audiation skills through:

  • Exercises requiring the memorization of music.
  • Solo and ensemble opportunities.
  • Singing orchestral excerpts in class.
  • Limited experiences with improvisation.
  • Performing rhythms through movement, and in a musical context.
  • Listening to recorded examples of great music.
  • The culmination of all other classroom activities as described.


Students will demonstrate their progress and comprehension of the coursework by:

  • Performing scales or rhythmic exercises as quizzes.
  • Performing excerpt tests individually for the instructor. An excerpt test is comprised of several sample areas from each work studied in class, and prepared for performance.
  • In addition to demonstrating competence and comprehension of required skills, excerpt tests mimic the “real world” scenario of taking an audition, providing students with valuable experience. Successfully completing the audition process will be required of all students as they move into college playing or adult ensembles.

Performance Opportunities

Orchestra and Orchestra 9 participate in three major concert programs as a large ensemble. Members may elect to participate in the solo and ensemble contest, and have a number of opportunities to mentor younger students each year.

A more detailed explanation of grading policies, expectations, and our annual performance schedule can be found in the Hastings High School Orchestra Handbook.

Resources used by the students as they progress through the techniques required by Orchestra and Orchestra 9 are as follows:

Selections from the orchestral repertoire.

Allen, M., Gillespie, R. & Tellejohn-Hayes, P. (2000). Advanced Techniques for Strings. Technique and Style for String Orchestra. Hal Leonard Corporation: Milwaukee, WI.

Allen, M., Gillespie, R. & Tellejohn-Hayes, P. (1997). Essential Technique for Strings. Hal Leonard Corporation: Milwaukee, WI.

Gordon, E. (2000). Rhythm. GIA Publications Inc.: Chicago.

Spinosa, F. & Rusch, H. (1989). Fine Tuning. 50 Intermediate String Ensembles for Developing Solid Intonation and Tone Production. Neil A. Kjos Music Company: San Diego, CA.

Witt, A. (1998). A Rhythm A Week for Strings. 52 Rhythm Units in Unison Using Major and Minor Scales. Belwin-Mills Publishing Company