• cryan headshotIt has been a busy, creative year of music making and learning here at the Flagler Youth Orchestra. As we begin the third and final semester of this school year, I would like to address the topics of individual practice and class attendance, and how those two activities, though related, are distinctly different from one another.

    The classes offered by the FYO are divided into two categories. Usually classes on Wednesdays are Fundamentals classes that are structured specifically on learning how to play the individual instruments; technique and form, note reading, bowing, fingering, etc. In order for a student to progress and advance through our system of graduated orchestra levels, it is necessary to gain mastery of the materials presented in these classes. Too often we hear comments such as “my child will be missing from class, but I’ll make sure she/he is practicing”.  Anytime a student misses one of these fundamental classes, they are missing critical instruction as well as individualized teacher feedback. It may also be difficult for a child to return to class confidently when the other students have moved on to more advanced materials. The music and materials taught in fundamentals classes are not the same as the repertoire presented in ensemble classes.

    Ensemble classes are generally held on Mondays, and they are devoted to learning the skills of orchestral playing. There is less focus on individual instrumental technique and more concentration on learning to work in a large group. Students in ensemble classes are expected to learn their music independently at home, so that when they work with the larger group, they can focus on listening to how their part fits in with the other sections and how to add specific dynamics, as well as stylistic elements that may not be apparent on the printed page. The nature of an orchestral experience requires that all members consistently attend rehearsals, similar to the need for sports teams to practice together. The orchestral concerts are a wonderful public representation of achievement, but they are only one component of a complete music education. Our mission is much larger than only teaching students nine pieces a year. Our goal is to nurture confident, lifelong musicians.

    Membership in any performing ensemble requires commitment from not only the individual students, but also of the parents and families of those students. Those who make a commitment to an orchestra must make it a goal to balance activities so that they are in compliance with the attendance guidelines that have been established. It is detrimental to the educational experience of ALL FYO students when members are absent. Success depends on highly committed musicians and families.  By pursuing membership in the FYO, musicians are agreeing to fulfill the obligations of participation with consistent attendance and arriving on time to all rehearsals and classes. Fellow musicians depend on each member’s commitment.

    Just as it is impossible to put all of the parts of a puzzle together if pieces are missing, it is impossible to progress through our graduated orchestra program if a student is not present for rehearsals and classes.