How much time is required?
As a beginning music student, very little time is required outside of school. Students have several concerts and may have a few rehearsals outside of school. Beyond that, other opportunities for students to participate include solo and small group contests, as well as private lessons. Neither are mandatory, but ARE highly encouraged. Students will also be required to engage in regular home practice routines, like having homework from a regular academic class. Our home practice requirements are 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week, leaving plenty of time to participate in other activities and school work.
What will I learn?
In the Downing Orchestra, students will learn how to properly hold and play a stringed instrument. They will learn how to read music, and how to play with each other as a team. Students will study the history of each stringed instrument, as well as information about famous string players and composers. They will also learn about concert etiquette, and practice techniques. As a string player, you can play many different styles of music, ranging from classical to rock, fiddling, country and western, jazz, and world music. Students will play a large variety of music in the orchestra. Orchestra is more than just learning an instrument. Your child will learn how to problem solve, how to work in a group, and so much more. Skills you learn in orchestra help with academic classes as well. Students will make friends in middle school orchestra that they will have for the rest of their middle school AND high school years
Will it affect my grades?
Yes! In the best way! Research shows that participation in music programs will affect your child’s grades for the better. Dr. Mike Moses, former Texas Commissioner of Education, states that “Current research indicates that the fine arts, especially music, influences the brain and actually stimulates spatial intelligence. Students who participate in an arts program experience important learning transfers in academic areas.”
Can I be in other activities as well as orchestra?
YES! Not only is participation in other Downing organizations possible, it is highly encouraged! However, it is important to remember that commitment to the music programs and practice time is necessary. Many of the skills each student will learn in music classes (teamwork, group accountability, etc.) will be GREAT assets toward their participation in athletic programs, or any other organization.
How much does this cost?
Fortunately NOT MUCH! Sure it will cost SOME money, but we are able to work out arrangements with a local music store and they are able to offer discounts on the purchase of an instrument, or can set you up on a monthly payment plan over the course of time. In fact, they even offer an instrument rental program. This program is perfect for beginning students who may be “experimenting” with their commitment to something new. The rental program protects you from investing money in an instrument while not being 100% certain that your child will continue in his or her band or orchestra instruction. A select number of school-owned instruments are also available for student use. This may be an option if finances are a major concern to your family. Please don’t let this stop your child from enjoying a great experience in music classes! Each music class also requires an “activity fee” which covers many of the costs that may come up during the year, including t-shirts and bus fees. Scholarships for the activity fee are available if necessary.
So why Orchestra?
The Downing Orchestra is more than just a class, we're a family! We have tons of field trips and social events. Orchestra is also a great creative break in the day for students. Music classes are a wonderful way to work on self-expression and explore new cultures and stories. You will also make many long-lasting friends in the Orchestra that you’ll keep well into high school. Once you enter the Downing Orchestra doors, you are forever a #downingorchdork. Go ahead and show your OrchDork pride!!!
What Parents and Students Say
When my son chose orchestra for his middle school elective, I was happy he was going to learn to play a musical instrument. What really happened was he found a place to belong, friends to challenge and encourage him, and confidence in himself for learning to play the viola. The orchestra program at Downing is top notch as is the teacher, Ms. Hardwick.
Orchestra was always the place I could call home. I spent every morning in the orchestra room and always came in after school. I felt like I could be myself in the orchestra room. Ms. Hardy Party was always there for me when I needed it and so was my orchestra family. My favorite middle school memories all center around orchestra. Plus, the music is AMAZING!
My daughter decided long before middle school to play the violin, but to decide for her to be part of the school orchestra was still a separate decision, and it was the best decision we could make. From the first day at the welcome pool party, Holly had a group of like minded kids she belonged to. The kids support each other and look at orchestra as a family, and the orchestra room like home. It's just what a middle schooler needs!
I felt like I was welcome the second I walked in the room. Orchestra was my favorite class and I looked forward to it every day. I knew it was the period where I could just have fun and not worry about anything else going on. It was fun to work really hard at something and hear how awesome we sounded. Ms. Hardy Party is still my favorite teacher I've ever had! Bass is BOSS!