Sometimes running an orchestra rehearsal can be a little bit hectic! You have 50 kids registered and your first rehearsal is tomorrow. Then, you remember that you're only one person...Cue:
So, what can you do?
Here are our 5 tips for getting support to help run your orchestra program:
1) Seek out volunteer helpers
The most obvious, yet oftentimes most helpful option is to put a call out for volunteers. You can contact local musicians, music teachers, other teachers at your school, college students or parents to see if they'd like to come on board. If you are asking for volunteers, the most important thing is to be VERY clear about your expectations for their involvement. Create a nice document outlining the role you'd like them to fill, or have a meeting with them over coffee to chat about their skills and how they might best help. It's also worth trying to find out what they hope to get from becoming a volunteer. Obviously, you will need to check with your school about any safeguarding requirements for volunteers.
Volunteer helpers can fulfil the following roles:
- Set up your orchestra space i.e. stands, chairs, music.
- Help students to tune their instruments.
- Sit in with a section and play along with students.
- Take students for sectional rehearsals.
- Sit with individual students to help them with reading their part, making notes on their music or reminding them of particular techniques.
- Demonstrate certain sections of music to the students. I've found this to be a nice way to break up rehearsals and give me a break too. It can also help to validate the skills of the volunteer to your students.
2) Appoint student leaders
Student leaders can be an awesome addition to your ensemble! Not only will you be giving students opportunities for ownership and leadership, but you'll also develop some trusty assistants. Student leaders can help to set up chairs and stands, place pencils on each stand, hand out music, take the register/attendance, support other students and help sell tickets/promote concerts. If they are comfortable doing so, student leaders can also introduce pieces during your concerts.
Keep an eye out for students that arrive to rehearsal early or are hanging around asking lots of questions! They might be your prime candidates for the role of student leader.
3) Partner with your local music store
Get in touch with a local music store and see if they'd like to become a sponsor for your orchestra. This kind of support can make the management of your orchestra so much easier!
A simple structure is that the music store might offer you a discount on rosin, strings, instruments, cleaning gear, stands etc. in exchange for an advertising slot on your concert programs.
Depending on the size of your orchestra program, you may be able to enter a more formal agreement with a music store. For example, if you work at a large school that requires many new instruments each year, you may want to meet with the music store manager to work out a deal. This could be that they supply you with discounted instruments and accessories each year and you place their logo on shirts, in the school music department, on concert programs, websites and all promo material. Do get in touch with us if you'd like more ideas for how to approach this!
4) Make sure you have great arrangements and repertoire
Choosing the right music for your orchestra can sometimes be a total pain and can add to the pre-rehearsal freak out! It can be easy to spend hours trawling through websites looking for repertoire to suit your group. Here are some solutions:
- Have a bunch of exercises ready-to-go for the beginning of your rehearsal. Here are some great options. Exercises are a quick way to gauge the ability level of the students in your orchestra. It also means that your group will be playing together quickly, without struggling through a piece to begin with.
- Find websites like ours that specialises in flexible, ability-specific scores for school orchestras. Most reputable websites will provide scores and audio examples before you buy. They will also provide you with full scores, parts, mp3 guide tracks and play-along tracks. Head over to our shop to check out the repertoire we have available.
- Contact us if you are looking for a specific arrangement or style for your orchestra. We can either suggest a piece that we've used before, or arrange one for you!
5) Connect with Facebook groups
There is a wealth of knowledge available from the teachers in various Facebook groups. Connecting with these groups is a MUST! Most of them are private groups and have some wonderfully supportive individuals that are happy to share their experience. Here are some of our favourites:
Teaching Online Orchestra-19 Ideas
String Orchestra Directors and Composers
Happy days! All the best with your rehearsals and don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it.