Students may start a stringed instrument in the third grade. Instruction continues into middle school and at the Westford Academy. At the elementary schools, Strings classes meet once a week for 45 minutes. All fifth graders participate in a 50-minute Orchestra rehearsal in addition, held in the morning before the official start of school. Students perform at various times during the year. When students continue study at middle school, the level of music becomes more challenging, allowing for further study of string technique. At Westford Academy String Class meets daily where students perform chamber music and major symphonic works.
Strings Program Website
All information regarding the Strings program in grades 3-12 is available at http://westfordk12.us/strings. Concert dates, resources, registration, documents and school Strings websites are linked from there.
Rental or Purchase of a Stringed Instrument
The first step towards successful instrumental music is to rent or purchase an appropriate instrument. Many local music dealers offer options for rental and/or purchase. It is very important that the instrument your child uses is the right size for him or her so that he or she will be able to play with proper technique. For this reason, the Strings faculty recommends renting an instrument until your child has grown enough to fit a full-sized instrument; rental exchanges for larger instruments for a growing child are free through all the local dealers.
Your rental agreement is transacted directly with the company of your choice. Most music dealers offer maintenance/repair insurance for a nominal monthly fee. Many parents find this to be money well spent in anticipation of future loss or repair needs. Remember that ìyou get what you pay forî is usually true. Strive for quality when choosing a rental company and instrument. An instrument in good playing condition and properly adjusted will be easier to play, resulting in greater success for your child. Consult with your teacher or a professional before renting or purchasing an instrument.
Recommendations for String Instrumental Rentals
- Bow with real horsehair (no nylon!)
- Equipped with four fine tuners and precision strings
- Smaller size violas available (equivalent to part-size violins)
- Instrument is subject to approval of the instructor. If not acceptable, the dealer should exchange it immediately for an acceptable instrument at no extra charge.
- A music stand
- A soft cloth for cleaning the instrument after every use
- Your class method book
- A Poly-Pad sponge or shoulder rest for violins and violas
- A rockstop or strap for cellos
Books and Music
All elementary grades use the Essential Elements series as the foundation of our studies; Book 1 is used from the beginning of third grade through the middle of fourth grade; Book 2 is begun in the middle of fourth grade or beginning of fifth. An additional method book may be used in fifth grade.
Members of the Fifth Grade Orchestras will also get copies of the ensemble music from the teacher. These copies are legal ìreplacement copiesî and must be returned or destroyed following the final concert. Due to copyright laws, Strings teachers are not able to provide extra copies to students. Please take care of all your music!
Care & Repair of Stringed Instruments
Below are several general rules stressed in class. These are rules that your child should follow at home.
- Keep instruments dry and away from extreme hot or cold temperatures, including storage in a car.
- Always store your instrument in a closed case when not in use. Your instrument is either in your hands or in your case!
- Keep instruments away from little brothers, sisters, friends or neighbors. Stringed instruments are extremely fragile and can be broken easily. Your instrument is personal and should only be used by you or your Strings teacher.
- Label your music, case and music stand with your name and address.
- Your case should only be opened when it is sitting flat on the floor at home or in class. Please do not open it at the bus stop or on your bus.
- To avoid broken strings, the tuning pegs should only be turned by Strings teachers.
- If your bridge should fall down or you come across another problem with your instrument, please show it to your teacher as soon as possible and do not try any repairs on your own. Your teacher may be able to correct the problem and will notify you if the instrument needs the attention of a professional repair person.
- Rosin your bow hair once a week at home during your practice time.
- Always loosen the bow hair before storing it in the case.
- Do not touch the bow hair with your hands or allow it to make contact with your face or neck. The oils in your skin stick to the horsehair and make it unplayable.
- Please do not attempt any repairs yourself and never glue any part of your bow or instrument.
- Please inform your Strings teacher of any instrument problems promptly. We are sometimes able to do some repairs in our classrooms, saving you time and money, but we are not able to do it during instruction time. The best thing to do is to email the Strings teacher at the time of instrument damage and deliver the instrument to the teacher before the next school day begins, when the student arrives to school. If we are unable to make the necessary repairs, we will write you a note specifying the exact problem.
All fifth grade Strings students participate, as well as some third and fourth grade students who take private music lessons and have demonstrated an advanced level of musicianship. Rehearsals take place at 7:15 in the morning. An emergency phone tree is distributed at the beginning of the year in case of emergency cancellations. Participation in Orchestra performances is contingent on regular attendance.
Practicing and Commitment
As teachers, we are committed to providing the best possible instruction for your child. We are also committed to helping your child become a productive member of a team, develop as a musician and as a person, enjoy enriching and rewarding experiences, and to complete our entire program in preparation for high school and beyond. These goals can be met only with both parental and student commitment. This means diligent, conscientious practice, and faithful attendance at lessons, rehearsals and performances.
Frequent repetition is necessary for the reinforcement of muscle memory. For this reason, the district-wide goal is for every student to practice five days a week. The length of practice sessions varies by grade: third graders should aim to practice 10 or 15 minutes daily, fourth graders for 15 minutes and fifth graders for 20 minutes.
Extra help may be given to students when the Strings teachers' schedules allow. To receive extra help, students must demonstrate adequate practice habits and class attendance. If a child is not able to maintain adequate practice habits and/or class attendance, he or she may receive extra help from a Mentor or private teacher.
How You Can Help Your Child in Music
You do not need any special musical training to help your child progress on a musical instrument. Common sense, interest and encouragement go a long way.
- Arrange a regular practice time
- Establish a quiet place for uninterrupted practice.
- Provide a music stand to promote good playing posture.
- Frequently listen to your child practicing and offer reminders to ëwork outí the difficult notes and phrases using careful repetition and the connecting of phrases.
- Never make fun of any strange musical sounds that may occur.
- Help keep the instrument in good repair by reminding your child to handle it carefully.
- Encourage your child to play for others when they visit.
- Promote ëfamilyí listening to good music on radio, TV and recordings.
- Praise your childís progress.
- Keep a recorded, photographic or written record of your childís musical activities.
- Notify the orchestra teacher of reasons for absences or problems.
- Help your child be on time for all rehearsals and performances.
- See that your child keeps up with any classroom work missed due to music lessons.
- Attend all concerts.
In the Community
- Take your child to concerts where they can see and hear good performances of quality music by professionals or other students.
- Encourage your child to play for others at your place of worship and other community functions.
- Encourage and support live music wherever appropriate.
Performances and Assessment
Music is music when it is heard, created, experienced or performed. Students have the opportunity for many informal performances and two formal concerts are scheduled during the school year. Concert dates are can be found on your schoolís Strings page, accessed through westfordk12.us/strings. The first concert is usually in December or January with a final concert in the spring. By performing, students are given a chance to show the achievements of their practicing and studying. Students find the performance opportunities to be an extremely exciting and enriching part of the instrumental music program.
Strings Progress Reports are sent home three times a year and generally coincide with school report cards. They are an excellent opportunity for the teacher and parents to communicate about a studentís progress and we encourage feedback and questions. Please review all of your child's scores and comments with him or her.