30 Free Ideas for for connecting with your Orchestra via Zoom [PDF]

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At Beginner Orchestra, we recognise that times are tough for orchestral music in our schools! Many of us are teaching fully online, in a hybrid setting or in a restricted/physically distanced face-to-face setting. To help out the school orchestra community, we have taken some time to come up with this list of 30 FREE ideas that we have found useful for teaching school orchestra online via Zoom.

Always make sure you have selected ‘Share Computer Sound’ when playing music for students via Zoom. The default should be that students have mics on mute and your screen set to gallery mode.

So, here we go! We have included all of the available links in this list below:

1. Send students legally reproducible PDF’s of their parts and have them rehearse independently.

2. Create backing tracks/guide tracks for your students to play along with at home.

3. Students record themselves playing their part, showing correct posture or demonstrating  how to care for their instrument and have them upload to Google Classroom or Flipgrid.

4. Sight read short sections of new pieces.

5. Work on clapping and playing rhythm exercises using youtube playlists or free resources on websites like musicplayonline.

6. Use the free resources on Sight Reading Factory for further engagement.

7. Split into breakout rooms for each instrument/section and have students play for each other and peer assess.

8. Perform your part for the rest of the orchestra on Zoom one at a time.

9. Find play-along videos/playlists such as Easy String Orchestra Sheet Music and Free Strings Project.

10. Research a famous musician that plays your instrument and present to the class.

11. Explore the orchestra in a unique way using the Orchestra as an Ecosystem activities from the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra.

12. Learn about all of the various Instruments of the Orchestra.

13. Explore the epic videos on the Sydney Opera House youtube channel.

14. Check out the Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra interactive site from Carnegie Hall.

15. Complete free theory exercises on musictheory.net or teoria.

Most discerning orchestra directors would agree that this is probably not a good idea!

16. Use the Zoom whiteboard to play ‘Hangman’ with music terminology.

17. Use the Zoom whiteboard to play ‘Pictionary/Guess The Instrument’.

18. Use the Classics For Kids games and activity sheets to explore Western classical music.

19. Create a bitmoji orchestra classroom for your students to use to access online materials.

20. Discuss the simple, yet important elements of using a score, such as how to mark your parts, add correct bowings and fingerings.

21. Teach students the basics of conducting!

22. Do some active listening or a listening journal around the pieces you plan to use when you return to face-to-face.

23. Explore alternative understandings of ‘the orchestra’ outside of the Western classical context. 

24. Play a Kahoot! There are so many pre-made orchestra ones already on the platform.

25. Have students create a poster promoting your school orchestra!

26. Watch footage of orchestra collaborations with rock bands and pop artists

27. Analyse a full score and practise some score reading exercises.

28. Invite trusted local professional musicians to feature in your Zoom lesson (subject to school approval).

29. Read/watch a story about the orchestra to your beginner groups.

30. Explore and research how various instruments are made.

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