Two semester credits
Prerequisite: Permission of the director.
Grades 9-12

Meets 2nd Hour

Concertino is designed to offer advanced orchestra students an opportunity to perform both small ensemble string literature, and select standard repertoire for symphonic orchestra (includes winds, brass and percussion). Concertino is a college preparatory course requiring a serious, professional attitude and the desire to study and perform at an advanced level.

Class topics include advanced technical study in instrumental performance, intermediate music theory and music history, preparing for college musicianship, and the aesthetic or stylistic considerations of music performance. Students will have the opportunity to participate in solo & ensemble contest, All-Conference and All-State music events, and performance tours.

This course requires a cello or bass rental fee of $55 per year for school instrument use.

Concertino is designed to address the needs of advanced string players. The goal of the class is to perform a wide variety of literature, including many 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 Concertino, the left hand skills of the player have been developed to the extent that only refinement level work remains. During the course students will:

  • Develop or refine vibrato.
  • Shift into upper positions. Execute shifting motions required by much of the literature performed.
  • Drill and memorize required finger patterns.
  • Perform and work toward memorization of three 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. Concertino members have mastered bow basics and are moving toward advanced bow technique. During the course, students will:

  • Refine basic bow strokes for best tone production.
  • Continue to develop understanding of the relationships between speed, weight, and placement of the bow.
  • Develop 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 of 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. Concertino students will continue developing rhythm performance skills through:

  • Sight-reading excerpts.
  • 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. Concertino 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. Concertino 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.

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. Concertino 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 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

  • Concertino members participate in four major large group concerts per year at Hastings High School. In addition, the large ensemble participates in the All Conference Music Festival, State High School League contest, and will often work with a special clinician. Concertino makes a performance tour every other year, and has traveled to London, England, Austria and Germany.
  • Concertino members are encouraged to participate in the State High School League solo and ensemble contest.
  • Many Concertino members use their skills to mentor younger students as concert assistants and “Practice Pals.”

Resources used by the students as they progress through the techniques required by Concertino areas 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.

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.

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