Two Winter Sketches
Brian Balmages has put a contemporary spin on classic favorites, "The Holly and the Ivy" and "Jingle Bells" in our first multi-movement work. The composer states that the first movement draws from the Romantic musical period, including rich harmonies, while the second movement draws from the Baroque period. Our second movement is definitely an ear-opener, as Mr. Balmages takes the well known "Jingle Bells" and changes both its harmony and rhythm from those we have grown accustomed to in our holiday celebrations.
Classic bits and pieces
A piece arranged by Michael Story, this show-stopper includes bits of many famous songs for strings and symphonic orchestra. These pieces include "The Hallelujah Chorus" (Handel), "The Surprise Symphony" (Haydn), "William Tell Overture" (Rossini), "Russian Sailor's Dance" (Gliere), "Sleeping Beauty" (Tchaikovsky), "Largo" from the New World Symphony (Dvorak), "Swan Lake" (Tchaikovsky), "Can-Can" (Offenbach), and "Ode to Joy" (Beethoven).
This is by far the most difficult piece that we have attempted in sixth grade this year. Not only does it flit from piece to piece after each 4- or 8-bar phrase, but it requires each section of our orchestra to team up and "hold their own" against the other sections. We used this piece to begin learning about dotted-quarter rhythms as well as reviewing our work on slurs.
Jazzy old saint nick
To close our 6th graders' program this evening, we have yet another twist on an old favorite. This piece takes "Jolly Old Saint Nicholas," which is included as an exercise in our Essential Elements method book, and has the student orchestra switch between playing the piece traditionally and plucking their strings, pizzicato. The piano helps students along, twisting their carol into a jazzy rendition of the classic before helping them end in a rousing finale!
Brazilian Sleigh Bells
In this Lloyd Conley arrangement of a song by Percy Faith, we put another festive spin on our orchestra's norm. This piece is written to mimic a samba, with a little creative storytelling thrown in the mix. With the beginning, the audience (and director) need to be very careful they don't burst into spontaneous dancing while the orchestra sets an image of a sleigh ride through the tropical countryside. In the middle of the piece, falling chromatic notes and frantically shaking sleigh bells bring to mind a thrown horseshoe or a comedic carriage accident, breaking away back to the beginning theme as the riders pick themselves back up.
The Great expectation
This piece is originally included in "A Christmas Triptych," or three movement sketch. The composer was commissioned by a school in Kansas City to write a piece of Christmas music based on their favorite melodies, and this middle movement takes two traditional Advent melodies "Veni Veni Emmanuel" and a French melody "Picardy" that is typically included in "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent." From the composer, "One never hears either melody presented in its complete form or alone. Rather, the two melodies weave in and out and around each other being presented in their most complete forms toward the end directly against each other. Right at the end Veni Veni seems to dominate for a moment before fading away and we hear a last statement of the Picardy melody quietly in solo violin."
A Mad Russian's Christmas
Based on various movements of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite," this piece adds the theatrical rock flare of the Trans Siberian Orchestra. The audience will hear familiar excerpts such as Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy, Trepak, Arabian Dance, and March. We feature our bass section on electric instruments as Chris picks up his guitar and Molly her electric bass to rock out the finale of our high school orchestra portion of the concert.
Spin, Dreidel, Spin
This traditional Chanukah melody is arranged by Andrew Dabczynski to make it easily accessible to string orchestra students. The minor mode, harmonies and rhythms reflect authentic characteristics of Israeli folk music and introduce students to important musical concepts (our favorite being differences between second finger sharps and naturals.) The playing becomes faster and faster throughout the piece, and all the sections get their turn with this playful melody.
Christmas in the renaissance
Christmas in the Renaissance is a modern day mash up of three pieces ranging from the 1556-1588. Robert A. Curry takes the songs "Riu Riu Chiu," "Dadme Albricias Hijos d'eva" and "Ding Dong Merrilly on High" and blends them together with tambourine to make a pleasant arrangement. It features traditional renaissance harmonizations and the jaunty tempos keep true to the dance-like nature of the original pieces.
A La Media Noche
This Puerto Rican Carol is subtitled "At Midnight." Aguinaldos is the Puerto Rican name for Christmas songs. Some of the songs are very religious and these are called villancicos. Some have a criollo flavor and they are called décimas navideñas. The rest are either traditional aguinaldos or popular Christmas songs. Our arrangment of A la Media Noche continues the upbeat tempo of the piece as well as including some festively spicey additions to our bass players' parts!
We are completing a wonderful summer of music making in Highland. Everyone associated with our music program deserves a standing ovation, especially our parents. Because of you, music is an important and respected academic subject in our school and a vital art form in our community. Thank you!
Camp has come to an end, but classes continue starting on the first day of school. Also, many musical opportunities still exist in the community for you and your child. May we suggest:
Music is an interactive language. When one plays or sings, the listener as well as the performer is actively engaged in the exchange. The weeks ahead can provide an opportunity for your child to be the performer and the listener. Through this, he/she may gain a new level understanding and appreciation of music.
For the returning students, we have exciting plans for the coming year and we anticipate continued positive growth in our music program. There will be opportunities for these students to serve in leadership roles and assume more responsibility within the group.
Thank you again for being a strong advocate of music in our Highland schools.
Mr. Phillip A. Loos
"Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other form of education, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul." - Plato
Helping parents help students practice
As adults, we understand that progress and achievement are the results of effort. Students need to learn this as well, and it is, in fact, one of the most important principles to learn and will help them throughout life. Helping string students to practice on a regular basis at home will not only help them become better musicians, but better citizens as well.
Students need continued encouragement to practice, because practicing takes discipline and effort. Help your child establish a regular time and place for practicing that works in your family’s schedule. Monitor your child’s practice on a regular basis to ensure that it is getting done. Talk with your child about the need for practice, and set up mutually agreed upon goals and rewards. The goals should be clear and attainable. The rewards should be something valuable and enjoyable to your child.
Frequently ask your child to perform for you, demonstrating the skills, knowledge, and new music learned while practicing at home. Praise your child’s practice efforts regularly in front of family members and their peers. It will make them feel good about their efforts and about themselves. It will also encourage them to continue practicing and help deepen their relationship with you.
Point out to your child the progress he/she has made on his her instrument and how many more notes and pieces he/she can play compared to when he/she started, for example. Encourage your child to make up their own music and help your child to remember their past successes as motivators to work toward future successes.
Practicing takes effort, and encouraging students to practice regularly takes effort. However, practice is essential for learning and it helps develop students’ work habits that they can take with them throughout life. Please do not hesitate to contact me for additional suggestions.
Dear Orchestra Parents and Students:
I write to you this afternoon to share some news with you that is both joyful and saddening. I have decided to resign my position in Highland, and have accepted the position of Orchestra Teacher at Chesterton High School. While I am excited about my new adventure, I am very sad to leave my Highland family behind. Sixteen years is a long time to be in one school system, and I cherish the friendships and relationships I have developed with all of you.
I implore you to keep the Highland orchestra program strong. I don't know who will follow in my footsteps, but I trust that you will show him/her the same love and support you have shown me these many years. Keep making music!
It is a pleasure to have your child in the School Town of Highland Orchestra Program. This school district offers string instruction from the 6th grade through the 12th grade. The program is a continuous one, and I hope to see every student performing in the high school orchestra some day. The commitment you have made is a lifetime investment for your child.
All beginning classes are now underway, and I’m sure your child has already performed for you. I will also soon be providing students with the performance schedule for the upcoming school year.
Proper care of the instrument is encouraged. Students have been shown how to handle the instrument so as not to harm it. I suggest that no one else handle the instrument unless they have your permission and your child’s instructions.
During the first several weeks of class, the primary emphasis will be on developing good playing position as well as correct posture. Failure to master these concepts can hamper a student’s ability and progress for years to come.
Thus, these first few weeks are the most critical. This cannot be overemphasized! Practice is needed to develop the coordination and strength necessary to play a stringed instrument. A practice “marathon” cannot accomplish the same results as consistent daily practice. The students are to complete assignments on SmartMusic and practice approximately 20 minutes per day. Your encouragement is a very important ingredient for your child’s success right now.
Progress reports will be sent regularly so that you may follow your child’s progress. In fact, the students had their first playing test already and your child can share the results with you. Please encourage him/her to demonstrate for you and other supportive family members what he/she has learned and be generous in your praise and encouragement. Help him/her to remember equipment and materials for class. A child takes pride not only in learning to play, but in learning to play well.
As questions or problems arise, please feel free to contact me. I hope your child’s experience with the orchestra is a successful one.
Congratulations on enrolling your child in the orchestra! Orchestra is one of the most rewarding and exciting educational opportunities offered by our schools. Your investment will pay tremendous dividend in your child’s life for many years to come.
Music provides students with a wealth of fringe benefits. In addition to obtaining the life long skills needed to become a music performer or consumer, a child learns skills that can be used in every facet of life. Team work, dedication, self discipline and responsibility prepare a child for a successful future in any profession he/she may choose. A variety of research shows that music students are among the academically strongest in their schools and score higher on the SAT than other students. Most colleges and universities now look for more than good grades on a child’s transcript. They want well-rounded students that have been able to accomplish more than just textbook knowledge.
You do not have to know anything about music to assist your child in this new endeavor. Arrange a time and place where practice can be done without interruptions. This practice should become a part of each child’s daily routine. He/She should never merely put in the required time, but should practice with the goal of always improving. Music should be placed at eye level. Please do not allow your child to put the music on a table, bed, etc. This encourages poor playing posture. Remember, practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect, but PERFECT practice does!
Again, I congratulate you on enrolling your child in the orchestra. As the year progresses, I hope you will free to contact me whenever necessary. Please refer to the "homework" section below this letter
Phillip A. Loos
Director of Orchestras
School Town of Highland
SUMMER CAMP DAY 1 "HOMEWORK"
Practice along with these tracks.
Groovin' For The First Time (Preparatory Page)
Groovin' For The First Time