Welcome to the SHS Orchestra web page! A student's high school experience should be diverse and include multiple areas of study, and the orchestra program provides a unique part of that experience. The Orchestra Department is made up of the non-auditioned String Choir, the auditioned Symphony Orchestra and Chamber String Ensemble. More information about each group (and pictures!) can be found on separate pages.
Our focus is to develop a greater love of music through musical study and performance. Students in these ensembles have the opportunity to participate in large string ensembles, small chamber ensembles, full orchestral ensembles, and to study theory and music history. We also extend our love of playing by visiting the Madison Symphony Orchestra at Overture Hall each year, and touring to Elementary schools or other venues in the community.
Two years ago we traveled to Nashville and Memphis, TN to learn even more about various genres of music and perform them. Tours happen every year in the Music Department, rotating between Orchestra, Band, and Choir. Our tour last year was cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic, but we hope to continue this tradition as soon as it is safe!
The Orchestra program strives to create a cohesive, enriching, and life-enhancing experience for all students to prepare them for life in an ever-changing world.
- Important Dates
- Grading Expectations
- Supplies and Instrument Maintenance
- School Instruments
- Student Section Leaders
- Concert Attire
- Forms to Return
Due to COVID-19, these dates have been separated to demonstrate ones we will be following this year, and those that we would have during a normal year. Please know that these may change - I will send an update to all orchestra families if that is the case.
September/October – Begin choosing music for Solo and Ensemble
October 30th – End of Quarter 1: First lesson and sectional deadline!
December - TBD, Solo and Ensemble Festival (added online festival)
December 19st – January 4th – Winter Break
January 22nd – End of Quarter 2: Second lesson and sectional deadline!
April – Badger Conference Solo & Ensemble Festival - online
March 22nd-23rd – Auditions for 2021-2022 Symphony and Chamber Orchestras
March 26th – End of Quarter 3: Third lesson and sectional deadline!
March 27th – April 4th - Spring Break
April 24th - State Solo and Ensemble - likely virtual
June 9th – End of 4th Quarter: Fourth lesson and sectional deadline!
Additional Dates (in a "normal" year)
September – Pick out Concerto if interested in auditioning for Concerto Concert
November 12th, 7 pm – Fall Orchestra Concert
December 7th - 7 PM - 6-12 Orchestra Winter Concert in SHS Auditorium
December 9th, 5 - 8 pm – 26th Annual Concerto Auditions in SHS Auditorium
December 12th – 14th, 6 pm - Madrigal Dinner (Chamber String Ensemble)
Week of December 14th – Chamber String Ensemble Tours to River Bluff Middle School (one day, TBD)
January 28th – Mock Solo and Ensemble Festival (at SHS)
March 16th, 7 pm – 26th Annual Concerto Concert in SHS Auditorium
May 12th , 6 – 8 pm – 22nd Annual Orchestra Theme Concert Dress Rehearsal
May 13th, 7 pm - Concert of Sacred Music, location TBD (Chamber String Ensemble)
May 17th, 7 pm – 22nd Annual Orchestra Theme Concert at H.S. Auditorium
Like the previous section, these grading expectations have been edited due to our being virtual at this time. This is a very unique situation! If we return to the classroom this year, this will also change a bit!
Assignments:Following each class, students will have an activity or short assignment to complete. While not every one of these will be graded, they are expected to be completed, often so we can use the activity to inform and advance our next class. We will be learning about different musical genres, and working on composition as well. These will be worth 10-15 formative points each assignment.
Lessons/Solo & Ensemble:
All orchestra students are required to participate in the Solo & Ensemble Festival in March. Each student is required to sign up for a MINIMUM of ONE lesson per quarter to prepare for the festival. This year, unless they have a sibling in orchestra that they’d like to perform a duet with, students will need to select a solo to work on for Solo & Ensemble Festival, which will be held virtually. Lessons can occur opposite of your cohort in a different class hour (ex. you are in cohort A-L of 2nd hour from 9-9:25, we could have a lesson during the 2nd half of that hour from 9:30-9:55). Email Ms. Lam directly to request a lesson! Her available hours are 2, 3, and 5.
Students are required to attend ONE sectional every quarter to work on technique and ensemble music. Each sectional will be 25 minutes of the hour and will be scheduled by your section leader and Ms. Lam to take place during the afternoon asynchronous work time (12:30-3:30 PM). If for some reason you miss this sectional, you will need to schedule a lesson with Ms. Lam to make it up.
Each quarter you will have a combination of short playing quizzes and small written quizzes. You will always know well in advance what you are expected to play for the playing quizzes and when they should be completed - this year we will be using SmartMusic to complete and submit. Playing quizzes are encouragement to get you to practice and are always to benefit your playing and are not something I just do to torture you! ☺ We will be creating a rubric together again online to help with evaluating the playing quizzes.
ONCE each quarter, you will need to watch some kind of concert performance (something “live” online or a recording of a live performance), and complete our performance assessment rubric. This can be another SHS Concert, a Madison Symphony Concert, or your favorite rock group! It is important to be an audience member as well as the performer and appreciate both sides of the stage when studying music. A short rubric critique will need to be turned in to Ms. Lam (we will create it together!).
In a typical year, we would have 4 SHS Orchestra concerts. With working together virtually, we will be using SmartMusic to record parts of a piece and submitting them periodically to put together and hear what we would sound like together! We will continue our work and complete one piece for a virtual “performance” at a date TBD. We will also be completing projects on Flat (composition), and getting creative with making a podcast and looking into music of other cultures through a couple different projects! Notice will be given far in advance with instructions and the due date.
This will be a combination of an online Schoology quiz on terms and theory concepts and a playing quiz on either your solo piece or our combined piece. I will know more details about the final at the start of 2nd and 4th quarter as to its particulars based on what we have covered so far. I fully believe in preparing you for the exam and you will always know exactly what’s on it before the test day. If you do a little studying on your own time, this should be a walk in the park!!
Due to Covid-19, materials will need to be ordered directly from Ward-Brodt Music or Heid Music. If you need new strings or a string replaced, I am able to help change them at SHS if you provide the new strings. With Covid, we will use a contactless drop-off/pick-up system, where you can drop-off your instrument at SHS (after contacting me about the issue!) and I evaluate the work that needs to be done. Depending on the issue, I will either take care of it or recommend taking it to Ward-Brodt Music or Heid Music to be repaired. I also have finger tapes I can put on an instrument for you. Please contact me before dropping your instrument off at SHS!
Students will need their instrument and Chromebook (provided by the District) every day. Paper and pencil will also be needed occasionally (and more often if sheet music is distributed) - Ms. Lam will let students know in advance when they should bring additional materials.
Music may be provided at a later time, and at that point they will have that daily as well.
Students should have rosin and an extra set of strings in their case.
Instrument Maintenance Tips
Change your STRINGS once a year, and now is a great time to do so! Strings often go "bad" or "false" long before they break, and won't stay in tune. Need help? I would be more than happy to help you! Also, it is a VERY good idea to have a spare set of strings in your case at all times, just in case you break one in the middle of class or while practicing at home.
Suggestion: a good brand of strings would be Pirastro, Dominant, or Helicore. They have a great sound and are good quality for the price you pay. Do NOT get Prelude strings - they go false quickly and have a poor sound, not mention being very weak and easy to break.
COVID EDIT: I am happy to help you change strings via Zoom! There are also helpful video tutorials - I have shared them on Schoology.
Your BOW should be rehaired once a year. If you are missing a lot of bow hair or the hair is black near the frog, it is in DESPERATE need of a re-hair. Just think how frustrating it would be to play soccer (or any sport!) with a deflated ball. Poor equipment doesn't make for a great game and poor strings or bow hair make for a poor sound. If you need to have your bow re-haired, you can take it to either Ward-Brodt Music or Heid Music. In some cases, buying a new bow is a great option too!
Suggestion: to extend the life of your bow and instrument, wipe the rosin residue off the fingerboard and strings with a cloth each time you play. A thin, soft cloth can work for this purpose. This will affect your sound quality! Make sure to ask for real horse hair when getting your bow re-haired. Also check your rosin - it doesn't last forever!
Due to Covid-19, students received a survey and should have already requested and received an instrument to use at home if needed. If for some reason this is not the case, please reach out to Ms. Lam immediately so we can arrange instrument rental!
If you rent an instrument this year, this fee will be added to your Infinite Campus account later in September. The rental form will need to be returned digitally to me via email - it can be found at the bottom of this page. Please download it there, after which you can sign and return it digitally or print it to sign, scan, and send. Normally you would bring the fee and signed form into school.
Renting an Instrument!
If you will be using a school instrument this school year, you will be charged an annual maintenance fee and must sign the maintenance agreement form. For cellos and basses, this fee is $70.00. Because of the increased cost of repairs, the expense for maintaining these large instruments cannot be absorbed by the HS Orchestra account. This fee is consistent with the other instrument maintenance programs in our district. The fee will be assessed for both students who use the HS instruments as their primary instrument (those who have no instrument at home), and those who use the school instruments as a convenience (those who don’t wish to bring their large instrument to school everyday).
The SHS Orchestra Department also has a small number of violins and violas available for rental. Typically rental from Ward-Brodt or Heid Music is encouraged for the smaller instruments, but please reach out to me if you would need one from the district. The fee to rent a violin or viola for the school year is $40.00.
Please sign and return the included H.S. Rental/Maintenance Agreement with a check for the appropriate amount based on instrument, made out to Stoughton Area Schools, by Friday, September 11th.
If you are renting a school instrument, the following Instrument Rental Agreements MUST be completed and returned by Friday, September 11th.
I would still like to have section leaders this year! While I hope we can all become confident enough to play for our classmates on Zoom, I’d like to see if section leaders can start off demonstrating different things in class (and ultimately everyone playing just a little for their classmates - nothing huge unless they want to!). Section leaders will also be responsible for coordinating sectional times to meet with Ms. Lam outside of class, and will be asked to provide feedback on virtual orchestra regularly.
If you have been a Section Leader in the past or desire to be one in the future, this information is for you!
- What is a Section Leader?
- Student Section Leaders may sit on the first stand of their section, but not always.
- They are often in charge of running sectionals and helping other members of their section with fingerings and bowings. I often go to the Section Leaders for their input and ideas concerning things that deal with the Orchestra class.
Does this interest you? Audition with part of your most recent solo piece, and a 2 octave C Major scale (Violin), or 2 octave G Major Scale (Viola, Cello, Bass) and email Ms. Lam to set up a short audition (15 minutes) in the afternoon on either Thursday, September 10th or Friday, September 11th.
At this moment in time, it does not look like we will be having an in-person concert for awhile. With a possible virtual “performance,” I may ask students to submit a picture of them in concert attire (if they are comfortable), with their instrument to play on a slideshow with the piece recording.
Concerts in the music department are viewed as a formal situation in that we wear more appropriate clothing for the event. There are guidelines ALL students must follow in order to participate in the concerts. If a student comes to a concert in inappropriate attire, they will not be allowed to perform in the concert and the appropriate points will not be earned.
Acceptable clothing for concerts:
- Long Sleeved Black Dress shirt (tucked in), school appropriate neck line
- Black dress shirt with ¾ length sleeves or longer, school appropriate neckline
- Neck tie or scarf/other accessories are optional (we'll choose an accent color as a class for each concert!)
- Black dress pants,
- Black dress or skirt (hem of skirt/dress MUST be to the knee or below while seated)
- Black dress shoes (no tennis shoes)
- Black socks
Clothing that should NOT be worn to a concert:
- White tennis shoes
- Mini skirt
- Crop top
- Any clothing items that would fall outside of our school dress code - this is a formal event!
I know it is going to be difficult, but independent practice is going to be SO important for our success as an orchestra this year (it's important every year, but we're not meeting every day now)! Especially as we create and combine recordings online, accuracy is going to be what allows them to sound like the music we would make in class.
Practice is an incredibly important part of developing skills on your string instrument - you do not improve without it!
Students have opportunities to practice at SHS before or after school, during lunch, and during 2+ or a Study Hall ONLY with a pass from Ms. Lam.
We talk about productive practice in class - even if you only have 10 minutes to set aside, every bit of focused practice counts! Intonation and keeping a steady tempo are important - tuners and metronomes can be downloaded as applications on your phone or there are websites also! Ms. Lam recommends Tuner Lite and Pro Metronome for apps and www.theonlinemetronome.com online(it has a metronome and tuner).
If you want more practice tips, ask Ms. Lam!
To start the year off successfully, there are a couple forms you will need to complete!
First, signing the acknowledgement form demonstrates that you understand what is expected of you as a member of the SHS Orchestra Program and that you have read the SHS Orchestra Handbook (all of the information above on this page). This is due by Friday, September 11th.
Second, if you are renting an instrument, choose the appropriate form to complete and submit below. This is due by Friday, September 11th.