Broke is Out, Baroque is In! Part 1

News stories about the recession and school budget cuts can overshadow the good things happening in schools. But teachers like MENC member Angelo Moreno are finding that with some imagination and fundraising, there’s opportunity for innovation and growth in today’s music programs. Here’s a positive story where broke is out, and Baroque is in!

Last spring, the Davis School Board in Davis, California, approved a new orchestra class at the Davis Senior High School (DHS) called the “DHS Baroque Ensemble.” It was necessary to form an additional orchestra class at DHS due to the high enrollment of students at the senior high school and the continued growth of the jr. high feeder program. Currently, over 145 students are enrolled in the DHS orchestra program. Angelo Moreno, orchestra director at DHS, now has three orchestras including the symphony orchestra, chamber orchestra, and the new Baroque ensemble.

The Baroque Orchestra will learn and perform music written during the Baroque period from 1600 to 1750. The students will perform the music on special Baroque-style stringed instruments similar to the ones that were used at that time. The instruments are characterized by their unique sound, which is due to the use of gut strings rather than metal wound strings, and Baroque style bows, which are shaped differently according to the style of the time.

In order to start the class with instruments in the students’ hands it was necessary to convert thirty-two traditional or modern instruments to Baroque style instruments and to purchase Baroque bows using money raised by the Davis Schools Orchestral Music Association (DSOMA), which provides support like that of a boosters organization for the entire district wide orchestra program from the elementary strings program to the secondary level orchestra program. Students in the group even attended a three-day  “Baroque Boot Camp,” as Moreno calls it, prior to school starting to get a head start on learning the instruments.

Local News Coverage of the DHS Baroque Ensemble Workshop

Baroque Boot Camp Concert Video
Part 2 includes information on period instruments, student learning, and tips for teachers on starting their own Baroque ensemble.

— Nicole Springer, September 30, 2009. © National Association for Music Education.