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School Band or Orchestra
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Mouse
March 11, 2021 - 3:58 pm
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I was wondering, about school bands and school orchestras. Where I went to school, and the surrounding areas, all the schools had bands, not orchestras. 

Where my kids went to school, it was a school band. A nearby small city has an orchestra, but all other surrounding school districts have school bands.

I was curious, whether it was a band where you went to school, and if you have kids who went to school in another area, if they had a school band or orchestra.

Just curious.

The Bumblebee Flies!

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ELCBK
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March 11, 2021 - 5:50 pm
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@Mouse -

I was very upset when I found out the "High-ranking Public School System" our Daughter was in had NO Orchestra or Arts!  Remember thinking, "what civilized part of this Country wouldn't have these?"(lol)  So, she played flute in her HS Marching Band - loved listening to her!

I was 1st exposed to Orchestra in Public Grade School - had our own (in all my Schools).  We'd assemble, as early as 1st Grade, in our Auditorium/Gymnasium to listen/learn about Woodwinds, Strings, and probably others - from Adult Quartets that visited our School. 

Marching bands went hand-in-hand with Football in the higher Grade Levels of my schools.  My family never showed interest, either did I - too busy working a part time job, among other things. 

Don't think I ever truly appreciated Marching Band until I saw the movie, "Drumline"!

 

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/18/21/9d/18219d74b9516c673a11effee5a9c8e1.png

I did have a violin passed down in my Family.  It was too big for me as a child and shoulder rests were unheard of, but I tried it in 4th Grade for a short time.  The teacher/Orchestra leader soured me, so it went back into the case and closed. 

Many years later, my Father asked me if I thought I'd ever want to try to play it again.  Internet was too new and had nightmares of the same type of lessons, so I told my Father he could sell it... never could've known. (lol) 

 

Can't wait to hear about everyone else's experiences!

- Emily

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Bob
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March 11, 2021 - 6:37 pm
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I attended junior high and high school in North Carolina back in the early 1960's (yeah I'm that old). I lived in Winston Salem and went to North Forsyth high school. The band program offered no opportunities for learning strings. 

Mainly marching band (I almost became drum major us-4240 ) and a couple of small assemblies (one for the drama club to accompany musicals) and dance band. I started on trumpet then took up baritone horn, french horn and trombone (dance band). 

There was a seriously famous "school of the arts" program in Winston Salerm that was for advanced music, dance, etc. folks, but I wasn't that serious at that point. I was having fun playing my guitar and singing folk music at parties and an occasional "coffee" house. My "real" music was in high school band. 

Somehow later on in life I felt a bit cheated by missing out on string instruction. I did, later, take my colorful strap off of my guitar and take up classical guitar lessons. However college and life got in the way. In college (NCSU) I did play in the ROTC drum and bugle corps!!!! (more marching).

In 1996 at the age of 48 I decided to try to learn violin. I've never regretted the decision and still practice every day. I don't intend to stop anytime soon.

Bob in Lone Oak, Texas

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Mouse
March 11, 2021 - 6:44 pm
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I have an older sister and we are alike in so many ways. She is about 7 yrs older. If you dropped our younger photos, you would not know who was who, not so much now. But, even how we acted, etc, apparently, from what people always said to me, was extremely similar, except my sense of humor always had been bigger, and I talk more once I know someone.

Strangely, when we were both in elementary school, she was already in Jr High when I was in elementary, so not at the same time, we both thought the same thing when band instruments were brought up. It was mentioned at a certain grade level, maybe 3rd or 4th grade. We both went home thinking that it did not apply to us because we had no instrument and did not know how to play, therefor, we could not participate. Neither of us said anything. Seriously. We thought that you already had to have an instrument and know how to play it. We did not realize that you picked an instrument and got one through the school. There was no information sheet sent home with us for the parents.

We were talking about 15 - 20 yrs ago and we got on that subject for some reason and we both said that. Of, course, we both know, now, that was not the case. We both said that it really hurt us as far as school went. We were not the cheerleader type (I sprained my thumb by stepping on it when practicing to try out - decided it was not for me), we were not in any clubs, but we both had wished all through school we were in band and knew how to play an instrument. 

Both of us thought the same thing when we were told about instruments, Both of us feel it affected us by not really being a part of anything in school and not really enjoying it. It would have meant so much. 

I actually started writing about that a few years ago, and put it away, well closed the document, it is on my computer. I should open it again again, and finish it. I might have to update it and spruce it up. It is quite a raw outline right now, if I remember correctly. I bet it was remembering that conversation a few years ago that prompted me into writing about it. Wow! I remember where we had that conversation now. Funny how the brain works.

How about anyone else, did you have band or orchestra, or neither? What was your experience. Thoughts if neither? 

The Bumblebee Flies!

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Mouse
March 11, 2021 - 6:50 pm
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I think that in most school districts that band instruments and instruction was more feasible economically for most families, I bet.

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AndrewH
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March 11, 2021 - 8:31 pm
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I had two different school experiences in two different places.

From kindergarten through 6th grade, I lived in Dubai and went to the American School of Dubai, an international school that catered mostly to the small North American expat community. It was a small but growing school: I believe there were about 500 students in K-12 when I started kindergarten, and about 700 when I left after 6th grade. The school started a band program at middle school and high school levels when I was in 4th grade, then added grades 4-6 to it the following year, so when I was in 5th grade I was part of the very first elementary school band at that school. There were no string programs, and I believe the school still does not have one 25 years later. It's still a small school, and Dubai still has limited access to string instruments and luthiers. (For almost the entire time I was there, there were no Western string instruments anywhere in the city; I now know that the first violin teacher arrived there only a year before my family moved back to the US.)

From 7th grade through high school, I was in suburban public school district in the Houston area. I continued in the school bands through 9th grade but stopped because I had no interest in marching band. There were large, well-funded orchestra programs, but I did not have the opportunity to participate because the school orchestras were absurdly elitist. There were no beginner string programs at any grade level; the district saw its orchestras mainly as competition teams, and orchestras started in 6th grade and were auditioned from the very beginning. Even though my high school had three levels of orchestras, the lower levels were treated like JV teams and only accepted students they thought could eventually help the top orchestra win competitions, and even the lowest level was packed with kids who had 5+ years of private lessons. (One of my good friends was last chair second violin in the lowest-level orchestra; he auditioned with the Bach A minor concerto, which is in Suzuki Book 7.) Instead of expanding the orchestra program and having instruments on hand for students starting out, they spent a lot of money flying the orchestra to out-of-town competitions. In my view, this is exactly how NOT to run a public school music program, even if you can fill three orchestras with upper intermediate to advanced students; the point should be to give as many students as possible the opportunity to learn an instrument.

Now that I live in Sacramento, I've heard some people in my community orchestras talk about a time when Sacramento city schools required every student to learn a string instrument, which probably would have been in the 1970s. I'm told it didn't last very long (less than ten years), because it was so expensive. But it also produced a whole generation of excellent community orchestra musicians.

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Mouse
March 11, 2021 - 8:45 pm
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For the life of me, I will never understand why everything, including art, has to be treated like a competitive sport. Music, and all art in school, should be open to all. I am glad you found your way to your instrument, @AndrewH.

@ELCBK Funny, the decisions we make when we are young. Not “funny” meaning ha ha. 

The Bumblebee Flies!

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Ilona
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March 12, 2021 - 5:54 am
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This is very interesting topic! I have heard about those school bands and orchestras in the USA, and have always been a little jealous about them... But I’m not sure if I have understood it right, can anyone really join in and learn to play?

Anyway, I can tell how this works in Finland. 
So all the kids have music lessons in the school, but there is not any orchestras and they can not really learn to play instruments there. Their music lessons are more just singing and listening to the music, learning about different music styles etc.

If a child wants to learn to play an instrument, you have to either hire a private teacher or try to get in to the music school. We have public music schools where anyone can study if they get accepted there. They are not free like all the academic education is, but the tuition fee is very small because these schools receive funding from the state. 

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AndrewH
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March 12, 2021 - 6:46 am
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Ilona said

This is very interesting topic! I have heard about those school bands and orchestras in the USA, and have always been a little jealous about them... But I’m not sure if I have understood it right, can anyone really join in and learn to play?

Anyway, I can tell how this works in Finland. 

So all the kids have music lessons in the school, but there is not any orchestras and they can not really learn to play instruments there. Their music lessons are more just singing and listening to the music, learning about different music styles etc.

If a child wants to learn to play an instrument, you have to either hire a private teacher or try to get in to the music school. We have public music schools where anyone can study if they get accepted there. They are not free like all the academic education is, but the tuition fee is very small because these schools receive funding from the state. 

  

It varies from place to place. But yes, in most places, anyone can join in and play, provided that the program exists and there is enough space for them (usually it's first come first served), and often instruments are either provided or available to rent for a small fee. It is fairly typical for bands and orchestras to start in 4th or 5th grade, and at that age level it is mostly beginners. Many of the popular instrumental method books in the US are designed for use by large groups of students in school ensembles. Starting in middle school or high school, larger schools tend to have more than one level of band or orchestra, so that students are grouped with others of similar ability. A large percentage of American children who learn a musical instrument start at school: probably the great majority of those playing wind instruments, and I would guess a large minority of those playing string instruments (though everyone who starts learning a string instrument at school is already considered a late starter).

Unfortunately, in recent decades, American public schools have greatly cut back on the arts because of a perception that they are not important. Usually orchestra programs are the first ones cut. There is too much tradition behind school bands, and choirs are inexpensive to run because no instruments are needed.

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Mouse
March 12, 2021 - 7:30 am
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@Ilona I believe it is up to each state and school district how it is one, if they have a band, orchestra, or nothing. In the district I grew up in, you can order the instrument through the school and make installment payments until it is paid for, or you can give it back before that. It is still that way, today. My sister and I did not understand that when it was explained in that meeting in 4th ir 3rd grade.

The school orders the needed instruments for the students from a school band instrument company contracted by the school, they take care of all the paper work. The instruments are delivered to the school and distributed to the students by the school. Both the school district I grew up in and the one my kids went to operated the same way. The school district I went to school in still does it this way. I am not sure how you made payments back when I went to school, maybe they were brought to the school, I have no idea. 

In the school district I went to school in, we had a band. What was not made clear to my sister and me is the way it was done, neither of us realized until we were too far along to be able to start. The lessons are not as extensive as lessons you would get from a teacher outside of the school who actually studied that particular instrument. They were all done by the band instructor. You learned how to play it, how to get the notes, etc, it was up to the student to put time in. You had a time slot with other students for the lesson during your school day. It was up to the student to put the extra work in and figure out what the music teacher did not cover in detail. That is about the best way I can explain the lessons provided. The family could, on their own, get and pay for individual lessons outside of school with whomever they wanted.

Anyone could be in band. How good you were decided if you got solo pieces. It was pretty much like chorus in that fact. I don't know about orchestra. Never was in a school district that had an orchestra.

That is the best way I can explain it. Both the school district I grew up in and the one my kids went to school in, same state, different county and school districts, operated the same way. I wish I understood that back when I was in school, or thatbmy sister did because I would have known through her. I will have to blame her the next time we talk, 😂😇

The Bumblebee Flies!

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Ilona
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March 12, 2021 - 9:14 am
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Thank you @Mouse , that was a good explanation. I think I understand it now. So if you wanted to be a really good musician, then you should have had another teacher somewhere else anyway. 

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Mouse
March 12, 2021 - 9:32 am
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@Ilona, exactly. But, at least for those who cannot afford that, they can get them and then work on it themselves. They also have a more affordable way to get an instrument. With my kids, they brought hime a form when they were at the grade level they could start, which is the way my school should have done it decades ago. 

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wtw
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March 13, 2021 - 5:13 am
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@Ilona it's exactly the same in France.

So thanks @Mouse for the explanation of how this band thing works.

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AndrewH
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March 13, 2021 - 5:58 am
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In most places that have school orchestras, they are similar to school bands, with group lessons available through the school and student instruments available through the school in some form (either provided, available for rent, or available for purchase through the school).

The school district where I went to middle school and high school was unusual. Although the school bands were similar to what @Mouse describes, the school orchestras did not offer lessons or do anything to make instruments available to students, they simply selected the best who already played string instruments. But again, this is NOT the norm.

Probably about one-third of the string players in my current orchestra are school orchestra directors. None of them run their programs like the schools I went to; all of their orchestra programs are open to all students including beginners.

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Mouse
March 13, 2021 - 7:06 am
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@wtw It would vary per state and school district. Some districts, as mentioned, have to make cuts and it is almost always the arts first.

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Gordon Shumway
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March 13, 2021 - 7:12 am
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Bands seem to be an American thing. In Britain they are mainly found in the Salvation Army (and other more explicitly military bodies) or associated with collieries.

Andrew

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Mouse
March 13, 2021 - 7:39 am
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This has been interesting. I am not sure I would have remained a band member in Jr High or High School (Jr High - 7-8 grades and Sr High 9-12 grades in our area) because I would not have wanted to march, I would not have wanted to play during half time at football games, etc. Maybe they did not march until St High, I can’t remember. 

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SharonC
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I started playing drums in school in the 5th grade, & I played until I graduated high school.  I also joined a Drum & Bugle Corps outside of school when I was 15.  My schools had bands, no orchestras.  The school did not have a marching band—they had a “Pep Band” that played at the football games (stationary, not marching), & they were basically people from the regular bands that volunteered to participate.  I did not participate in Pep Band.

In school, we’d have a weekly lesson (45 min) with 2-3 students on specific instrument, & then band practice (also 45min) every other day (i.e., alternating Monday, Wednesday, Friday then Tuesday, Thursday the next week, etc.,).  Band was open to all.  At the middle & high school levels, there was more than one band (middle=3, high school=2) based on skill level, with placement decided by the music teachers.

We didn’t have any competitions in school—outside of all-county & all-state bands, which happened once a year.  You needed to try out for them with a prepared piece (from a list they provided) as well as some sight reading.  

In Drum & Bugle Corps, we had a weekly rehearsal for two hours.  Typically, there was 1 hour lesson/practice in sections (i.e., drums with drum instructor, horns with horn instructor), then 1 hour practice as a group.  Times would vary based on what we were practicing for. 

The Drum & Bugle Corps did have competitions in the Fall/Winter seasons – we would compete against other corps in the NY/NJ metropolitan areas.  In the spring/summer, fire departments would hire us to march in front of them in the various parades, & sometimes there were awards for that.

Anyone could join the Drum & Bugle Corps (there was a small annual fee) & attend practice, but skill level determined participation in events.  Beginners may have been able to participate in a parade, but might not have been ready for a competition. 

When I was 16, my high school band went to a rehearsal of the NY Philharmonic (they were open to students during some weekday rehearsals).   First time I ever saw/heard strings in person.  I was blown away by it.   I think I would have definitely taken up violin then if it was available to me.

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