Students select Orchestra at the end of their 1st Grade Year at Longfellow. Beginning in 2nd grade, Orchestra students receive three days of Orchestra instruction a week, plus a day of library and Physical Education lessons. Below is a description of what they can expect each year in Orchestra at Longfellow.
2nd Grade Beginning Orchestra
In 2nd grade, students choose their string instrument from violin, viola, cello, or double bass. They learn in a “traditional Orchestra method” that includes proper technique, group unison playing, music theory, and note reading on their instruments. Students begin without the bow for the first unit and learn pizzicato (plucking the strings) in order to solidify the left hand position. 2nd Grade Beginning Orchestra performs “in Halloween costume” at our Spooky Fall Fest Carnival, as elves in our Holiday Extravaganza, and “Miller Outdoor Theater style” in Hawaian wear for our outdoor picnic Spring Fling.
3rd Grade Advanced Orchestra
In 3rd Grade, students move into the Essential Elements for Strings curriculum. They work to master all the notes in the D major and G major scales and add Advanced string skills like slurring, eighth note patterns, and how to lower a “sharp” to a “natural.” In ADDITION to all the performances listed above for 2nd grade, the 3rd Grade Advanced Orchestra attends a concert at Jones Hall to see the Houston Symphony and performs for the Houston Community, “giving back” at Levy Park or the Houston Zoo.
4th and 5th Grade Chamber Orchestra (Performing Strings)
At Longfellow, 4th and 5th Grade Orchestra is called the Chamber Orchestra, a select Performing Strings Group. This group plays music “orchestrated” for full orchestra--with separate violin 1, violin 2, viola, cello, and bass part harmonies. The Chamber Orchestra cuts a sophisticated path around Houston. They perform a collaborative concert with Pershing Middle School every year at Halloween, called the “Hauntcert.” They compete each year in the Galveston Isle Orchestra Festival, the HISD String Festival, and the Director’s Choice Orchestra Festival--always receiving Superior and Excellent ratings. Chamber Orchestra members are issued a formal (tuxedos and black dresses) performance uniform and casual uniform (Orchestra polos) to use in performance and are called upon to add music to assemblies for Black History month, International Festivals, recruitment events, and hospital ‘caroling.’
Additional 5th Grade Opportunities
5th Graders (and very advanced 4th grade players) are provided additional opportunities to excel as young musicians. Soloists compete each year in the UIL Elementary Solo festival, in which Longfellow players medal with “I” ratings. Students from Longellow compete and win spots in the HISD All City Orchestra, a special honors Orchestra with students from all over Houston! (this past year Longfellow had 18 students get in!) The 5th grade is asked to perform at the Houston Livestock and Rodeo on the outdoor stage every February for Black Heritage Day. They have also performed at Jones Hall, the Alley Theater, and the Wortham as “pre-show” special lobby entertainment before Theater events.