The Orchestral Warm-Up: Setting the Right Tone

To get your orchestra’s rehearsal off to a good start, it’s advisable to have everyone warm up first. And yet, due to schools’ short class periods and teachers’ long rehearsal to-do lists, warm-up time is often neglected or even nonexistent. Still, those orchestra directors who do make warm-ups a regular part of the rehearsal period have learned an important thing: ensembles that warm up together usually stay together. The time an orchestra devotes to warming up can pay off exponentially for the rest of the rehearsal and for actual performance.

“The warm-up is a vehicle for preparing youngsters for the rest of the rehearsal,” says Jim Robinowitz, retired orchestra director for the Arlington Central School District in Poughkeepsie, New York. “Most importantly, it is time spend at the beginning of each rehearsal that I use to get the kids to focus on playing together.” During this key time, string players get their fingers moving and settle into the state of mental concentration needed for rehearsal.

According to Robinowitz, the most important feature of the warm-up is that it “sets the tone” for the subsequent rehearsal. A director that takes warming up seriously will demonstrate to the ensemble that players should approach other parts of the rehearsal with the same steadiness of purpose. Warm-ups are also helpful because they establish a regular routine. The resulting sense of structure and predictability in the orchestra classroom can bolster a group’s cohesion.

Turn to page 54 or your April 2010 issue of Teaching Music to read the entire article by Cynthia Darling.

— Nicole Springer, March 31, 2010 © National Association for Music Education.