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South Washington County Schools

FAQs

Is there any cost to be in the orchestra program?
The only cost involved is the rental of the instrument (monthly fee) and the cost of the materials needed.  Some families decide to take private lessons in addition to their school orchestra.  Private lessons are optional but highly recommended for students in middle and high school.

Is my child required to take orchestra?
The elementary orchestra program is an elective program. Middle school students are required to take band, orchestra, or choir for all three years of middle school.

Why does my child have 3 options for an instrument choice when joining?
When students register for orchestra in elementary school, we encourage your child to state their top three choices on the registration form for new students because we need to make sure we have an balance instrumentation for the new students entering in the program.  For example, we cannot have 2 violins and 35 cellos.  We need a balance between how many students play an instrument.  We try to honor your child's first choice, but there are times were we have to give them their second choice.  If you have any questions about your child's instrument choice, contact the appropriate orchestra director.

When will I receive confirmation on which instrument my child will play when joining?
Once elementary registration forms are submitted, each orchestra director evaluates the students and their choices and determine a balanced instrumentation.  The orchestra director will contact you and/or your child with a confirmation of your child's instrument.  If your child's choices have changed, please contact the appropriate orchestra director.

How do I know what size of instrument my child needs?
The orchestra director sizes elementary students during the registration period.  In middle and high school, the orchestra director will occasionally size the students as they grow throughout the year.  Visit the Sizing Guide for more details.

How does my child get a bigger instrument if their current instrument is too small?
We encourage families not to purchase an instrument until the student reaches the instrument's "full-size".
If you currently....

  • Rent from a music store: You will need to call the store to make sure they have the size your child needs, in-stock.  Otherwise, they will have to order an instrument. You will simply trade in the smaller sized instrument for the new instrument. Bows should also be upgraded since the bow size needs to match the instrument size.

  • Own the instrument: You will need to contact a music store to rent (or purchase) the bigger instrument.  Contact your orchestra director for recommendations in models of instruments.

  • ** When upgrading to a bigger size instrument, violin and viola players may need to purchase a bigger shoulder rest, since they also come in various sizes to match the instrument size.  Sponges are acceptable in elementary school, but shoulder rests (such as the "Kun" brand) are recommended in middle and high school.  Check with a music store to purchase a shoulder rest along with your bigger instrument. 

When we are ready to purchase a "full-size" instrument, what should we look for?
Visit our Renting vs. Purchasing page for more information or contact your child's orchestra director.

If my child chooses cello or bass, how to they get it to school?
It is a district policy that cellos and basses are not allowed on district busses.  Elementary students will need to have their instrument dropped off in the morning and picked up after school.  Instruments should not be stored at school, they should be kept at home for daily practice and only brought to school on lesson days (usually once per week).  The exception to that is if students play bass (and some cello students), the school provides a lesson bass or cello so these very large instruments do not get brought back and forth from home every week.  Students are expected to bring/use their own instruments from home for our concerts.

When does my child receive lessons?
Elementary School: Once a day, during the school day. Students get pulled from class for 30 minutes to receive a small group lesson with students who play the same instrument and are at the same ability level.  Once a week students will receive a 30-40 minute group rehearsal with all students at their ability level.  The orchestra director determines the times for the lessons and rehearsals. 

Middle School: Students receive lessons once every 2-3 weeks.  Normally they are grouped by instrument and grade level.  Students are pulled from other academic courses for a 20 minute lesson.

Are there any practicing expectations?
Yes!  Students are required to practice.  Practice is crucial in the development of their musical playing skills.  Before registering for orchestra, we encourage the students and parents to discuss the expectations of being in the program and the dedication and effort that is involved. Check with your child's orchestra director for more specific practice requirements.

What if my child is switching schools for next year? 
Elementary Students:  Please fill out the registration form and turn it into your child's orchestra teacher at their current school.  The orchestra teacher will forward it onto the appropriate director at your child's new school.

Middle School Students: The orchestra director at your new school will get notified by the school counselors about any school changes.  Please make sure to inform the counselors that you are in orchestra, so they schedule your classes appropriately.

What are private lessons and does my child need them?
Private lessons are extra lessons that take place outside of the school day.  The lessons are taught by a string specialist in your area (contact one of the orchestra directors for a list of recommended private teachers in the area).  Your child will receive a one-on-one ("private") lesson with the instructor.  Some teachers teach a different method than our Essential Elements curriculum, so your child may have more to practice if they take private lessons. Some teachers are willing to help your child on their school orchestra material also.  Each instructor charges their own rate and most of them have more performing opportunities for your child (i.e. recitals, competitions, etc.).  Private lessons are not required for our district orchestra program; they are optional.  They are definitely a great way to enhance your child's musical skills and techniques. 

How many concerts do the students have each year?  *some concerts may be added by the director
Elementary School: 2 per year (fall/winter & spring)
Middle School: 2-3 per year (fall, winter, and spring)
High School: 3-4 per year (fall, winter, and spring) 

How much do instruments cost to rent?
Generally a stringed instrument rental costs between $35-100 per month depending on the instrument, vendor you are renting from, and quality of instrument rented. We do not recommend purchasing an instrument until students are finished growing, as the instruments come in sizes which correspond with students’ height and arm lengths. It is a good idea to eventually purchase an instrument, because when instruments are cared for and played regularly, they often maintain and increase in value and can be a valuable investment towards trading in for a higher quality instrument or for future resale to another player.

For further inquiry into pricing for instrument rentals, visit our list of music stores for instrument vendors who rent and sell instruments. Please check with them for specific pricing of rentals, programs, and new rental specials.

Before you rent or buy, please make sure your student is properly sized for the instrument they will need. This can be done by their Orchestra teacher or by the instrument vendor.