September 27, 2012 at 6:48 pm #12993
For the first time in a very long time (and for as long as I have been in the area), our local section is hosting an area band/orchestra festival – woohoo! I’ve always been hesitant about taking my small and growing band to an out-of-area and far away festival, but now that we have one nearby, I’m very excited about participating. This will be my first festival as a teacher.
My question is, any advice for bringing groups to a festival from a small school? My middle school is 120 kids, and so my band is 18 students and my string orchestra is only 6, mixed grades 6-8 (we also have a choir program and all ensembles rehearse before school, which keeps my numbers low). I remember getting excited about going to compete at festivals when I was in school, and as an educator I’m very excited about the opportunity to have something important to prepare for. Also, I want my students to hear what other middle school bands and orchestras are doing. I think it will be great motivation for them this year and as I continue to grow the program. I’m not at all concerned about them winning or getting unanimous superiors, but want them to realize that there is a bigger world of instrumental music out there, and hear some feedback from an adjudicator – someone other than me!
As I mentioned we are very small, and because we are mixed grades we are not playing incredibly complex music – probably grade 1 and 1.5. Is that going to be alright? I was thinking that I would include a note to the judges about our school size and the fact that the program is relatively new. I do have a little bit of guilt about taking a festival slot when we are so small and aren’t going to be able to compete at the highest level. Is that going to be at all problematic?
My last question is specifically about the orchestra. They don’t qualify for Solo & Ensemble festival because they are not one to a part, but it is a little bit of a stretch to call them an orchestra at 6 members (2x violin I, 2x violin II, viola, cello). At school I actually call them the String Ensemble. But, I still want them to participate and to have the experience, and they work as hard as the band so it seems wrong to take one group and not the other. Will anyone get upset about the size?
Thanks for your advice – I’m in a small, one school district so really appreciate the opportunity to network and hear from others in similar situations!September 27, 2012 at 7:11 pm #12994
How exciting for you to finally have this opportunity! First off, I would check your state rules on participation. I know in Wisconsin we have rules about minimum students participating, but that doesn’t prohibit small ensembles from playing- it just gives them an exemption from the festival/clinic rule to be a member of our state music association. I think all states have different regs, so just check to make sure.
Secondly, don’t feel bad about “taking” a slot! Every student deserves to have this opportunity from big schools or small. Many of us here come from very small schools- in my school, grades 6-8 have fewer than 40 kids TOTAL (about 200 prek-12) and we still participate. Giving your students more performance opportunities could really help build your program. For a middle school festival, I would expect students to play grade 1.5 level music or so- maybe 2. The selections on my state’s middle school list are generally right around there. Maybe push your ensembles toward a 2 for one selection, and then do an easier second selection?
I wouldn’t call your strings an orchestra either- I think you have the title right. Again, check the state regs on this one, but if six students constitutes a large ensemble, go for it!October 10, 2012 at 9:30 pm #13471
I went to school in the Baltimore (MD) County Public School system and I have seen groups who have played who are as small as you are saying. Chances are the festival is aware of the size of certain programs in the area that is hosting the festival. I would call or email someone to talk about it because you may be able to take your groups to the festival to just play and get comments but not necessarily get a rating for the groups. This is just so the students experience the event and are able to take it in. You don’t even have to tell the group they are not getting officially graded. I think experience is more worth while than anything else. I have seen groups who have just played for no grade, just for fun so maybe you can do the same in your area. Something to look in to. If the judges are willing, they can give you comments anyway just to help you out and make it feel like a legitimate adjudication.
Kent State University, OH
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