Skip links

Five Tips for Building a Successful Orchestra Program

Create interest, network, collaborate, gain support and maintain your vision.

In our recent blog posting “Case Study: How To Grow High School Orchestra Enrollment,” we described the steps taken by Kenny Baker, orchestra director for Robert McQueen High School in Reno, Nevada to greatly expand his school’s orchestral program. Here are his five tips for success:

1. Create interest in students of all ages: The McQueen High School Orchestra’s yearly Zone Concert brings together more than 500 student musicians from elementary to high school levels, inspiring younger students to stay in the program. “They think it’s the coolest thing ever to work with the high school director [and] my high school kids,” says Baker. “They get to see where it’s going to lead.”The McQueen High School Orchestra's young musicians in a playful photo showing them on a stage with their chairs pulled together into a tight circle facing inward with an upright bass raised in the center upside down and the players with their bows pointing towards it.

2. Network with other instructors: As a Yamaha Certified String Educator, Baker attends and presents at national conferences, where he exchanges advice with other string teachers. He also invites other Yamaha educators to conduct clinics with his students. Baker says he believes in using his connections to “get good music educators in front of kids.”

3. Collaborate with colleagues: Baker’s collaborative mindset has helped him build rapport with administrators, sports coaches and other teachers. Musicians can participate in sports and honors classes. Guidance counselors and administrators help students fit all of these activities into their schedules.

4. Gain parent support: Baker works directly with the orchestra booster organization to raise the funds needed to perform around the country and abroad. “It’s a very cohesive, symbiotic relationship between the board and Mr. Baker as the director,” says booster president Caryn Tijsseling.

5. Have a vision: Baker’s inspiration came from his hometown of Rapid City, South Dakota. After performing in its school orchestras and citywide concerts, Baker knew he wanted to make Reno “a place where kids could have that kind of experience,” he says. “The [Rapid City] string program is absolutely top-notch. As a music educator, I look to their pursuit of excellence as an inspiration.”

Photos © 2016 Skye Snyder, M.D. Welch. All rights reserved.

 

This article was originally published on the Yamaha Educator Suite blog. 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Savy Leiser
Savy Leiser is an author, journalist, editor and creative writing teacher living in Chicago. She graduated from Northwestern University in 2015, where she spent four years playing saxophone in the Wildcat Marching Band and was a member of the music sorority Sigma Alpha Iota. In addition to writing for Yamaha SupportED and Halftime Magazine, she writes children's and young adult books.

Read More

TAGS

RELATED CONTENT