November 9, 2009

Rumor: School Orchestra = bad habits?

Posted in School Orchestra, Violin Practice at 7:13 pm by theviolincase

Recently I had a concerned parent ask me about school orchestra for her daughter.  Her private violin teacher had advised her not to enroll the daughter in school orchestra because “they teach bad habits.”

As you know I have been a private teacher for many years and have recently been volunteering on an almost daily basis in my son’s beginning orchestra class at our public school.  I can promise you the teachers do not teach bad habits! However, kids who learn to play exclusively in their school orchestra do often end up with bad habits simply because there is one teacher and too many students.

So I told this concerned mother that her daughter doesn’t just learn about the violin when in orchestra.  She also learns valuable skills about playing in a group and watching a conductor.  Ensemble playing is a skill separate from playing the instrument, and is a very valuable skill to learn. Her daughter needs both private lessons AND school orchestra to be getting the most from her violin study.

Yes, bad habits are a possibility, but not because the teachers are not doing their job.  It is simply due to the teacher/student ratio in the orchestra classes.  Music classes such as band, choir and orchestra, can have teacher ratios much larger than any other subject.  In our school there are 2 teachers and 95 students, which works out to be 47.5 students per teacher.

Volunteers would be a great way to even out this ratio. Call your local school orchestra and see how you can help.  Even showing up once a week (scheduled with the teacher) makes a big difference to the teacher and to the kids.  Some of these teachers are band or choir teachers who have been asked to take on orchestra.  If orchestra is to become as prevalent in our schools as band, we need to accept these teachers and give them unconditional support from the string community.



  1. Denise Lacombe said,

    Well, I´m very jealousy of this concern mother.. I live in Brazil and we don´t have school orchestras, even in the private ones.
    Now, the musical classes in school is a LAW. It´s so ridiculous… The teachers, mainly in public schools, don´t know how to learn our own language and the students are functional analphabets (we due it to Lulla, of course, our worst president until now). And it´s gonna be worst after Obama said : “It´s the guy”. I almost cried and sent him an email telling the very truth…….
    My son has 13 and plays drums, with private lessons. In his private school, the art classes is a joke. I´m glad he has your own band with more 2 friends and they´re learning what you said above: how do hear other´s opinion, be patient, work in a group. It would be a very gift to children in school. So, be happy with what you have in US.
    Bad habits can go away with extra private classes, I think.
    Sorry about some english errors.

  2. indeed, the student-teacher ratio plays major role, I think it holds true for any type of subject, the fact that students cannot be monitored closely for their progress is one major factor that needs to be address.

  3. Orchestra and Ensemble Classes are very beneficial, but should be treated like and addendum to, not an alternative for, private lessons.

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