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5 Tips to Grow an Orchestra Program

Build your orchestra with these tips from McQueen High School’s Kenny Baker.

In “Case Study: How to Grow a High School Orchestra Program,” we described the steps taken by Kenny Baker to expand the orchestra program at Robert McQueen High School in Reno. 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.”

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 originally appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of Yamaha SupportED. To see more back issues, find out about Yamaha resources for music educators, or sign up to be notified when the next issue is available, click here.

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