Playing a stringed, bowed instrument is no cake walk. It takes a lot of practice to get the technique correct, and a lot of concentration on your finger placements, how you’re holding and moving the bow, timing and pitch to play well enough that people want to listen. Less than three months ago, our Grade 4 students started working with Mrs. Smith on learning their new instruments. Before they even picked up their cellos, violas, violins and double basses, the students practiced with rhythm sticks and cardboard paper towel tubes. They quickly moved on to the real thing, picking up on scales and timing, while learning to play as an ensemble.
Last week the Grade 4 musicians saw the Grade 5 strings students perform for an audience, and this week it was finally their turn. All their practice paid off Monday, when eager parents and a gym full of students had the opportunity to witness the Grade 4 Strings Ensemble’s first public performance. The set list included recognizable songs, like “Hot Cross Buns”, “Ode to Joy” and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”. At the end of the show, the little musicians were beaming, proud of their musical accomplishments, as were all the parents and teachers in attendance. It was a terrific show, and we all look forward to their next concert in the spring!
“I am the most proud of the synergy we showed as a group because we kept pace with the music. The biggest challenge for me was the contact point with my bow because it would slip up the fingerboard. I have made huge progress with my contact point. Now my bow stays put. My goal for term two is to learn new notes and songs and put on another concert!” –
“I am the most proud of learning “Ode to Joy” by myself because it was hard because my wrist gets really tired. My biggest challenge was learning “Matthew’s March” because the first time I didn’t know which notes to play. I have made the most progress in Strings by not playing when Mrs. Smith was talking because I wanted to hear the sounds. How I did this was I kept reminding myself not to play my instrument. My goal for term two in Strings is to learn more harmony.” –
“I am the most proud of being able to play “Ode to Joy”, which I think is the most difficult piece in the list of songs Mrs. Smith had us learn. I think it is the hardest piece because there is a repeat at the end. I was the most challenged by learning to play in unison because you need to trust everybody. I have made the most progress in good hand positioning. My goal for term two will be to learn all of Harry Potter because I only know about 7 notes. I think the two classes did a really great job at the concert this morning.” –
“I am the most proud of being able to work my way up to reading notes and finally having a concert. I think I did this well because I worked really hard until the concert and learned a lot. The biggest challenge was learning how to read notes because it was so easy to get the wrong note. The biggest progress I have made in Strings is memorizing where to place my fingers to make certain notes. My goal for the second term in Strings is to make sure I work my hard to become better at note reading so I can try other songs at home.” –
“Before we started to play I felt really nervous and excited. I felt that because it was my first time playing a cello for a large audience. When we started to play our instruments, “Hot Cross Buns” was the first song. It was easy because that was the first song I learned on the cello. The second and third songs were “Matthew’s March” and “Christopher’s Tune”. When I started to practice those songs I felt very scared because they are sort of long songs, but once we played them for a while I got used to them. I felt more confident to be able to play those two songs and they became easier to play.
The fourth song was “Song for Christine”. When I started to practice this song, I felt like it would be impossible to play, but then it came easily during the concert. When I played that song I felt confident and made a couple of mistakes, but the good thing is you can’t really tell if somebody made a mistake because it was really loud. The fifth and sixth songs were “The Folk French Song” and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”. Those songs were totally impossible to play when I first saw them, but it came together and it became easier to play when we played it during the concert.
The final song was “Ode to Joy” by Beethoven. That song was the hardest song during the concert because Beethoven was a very famous person a long, long time ago. When I found out we were going to learn the song I was so excited and so scared because it was very long and hard to play, but in the concert it felt like I knew how to play it forever. At the end of the concert I felt very proud of myself because it was my first strings concert and I have always wanted to play in a orchestra. It was amazing!” –
“At the start of September I didn’t know how to play the violin. So when I did this concert with my classmates I couldn’t believe I was performing songs like “Hot Cross Buns”, “Ode To Joy”, “French Folk Song” and also a D Major scale. I was stunned that I was playing all those songs for Kindergarten, Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3 and Grade 5 students, and for all those parents as well. During this I felt happy, fuzzy inside and tired, because you have to hold the violin up on your shoulder bone and you have to hold it down with your chin. When you put it down it stops hurting your chin and your shoulder bone is okay, and your hand doesn’t hurt even if you hold it up for that long.” –
“In the Strings concert I was feeling so nervous. I was feeling so nervous my heart was pounding like a hammer and my head was spinning. We played the D Major scale normally and in harmony, then “Hot Cross Buns”, “Ode to Joy”, “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star”, “French Folk Song” and other songs. I think the expression on my parents’ faces were like, ‘Wow, he is really good.’ After the strings concert we first put our instruments away and came back to help fold the music stands and give them to Mr. Smith (Mrs. Smith’s husband) to put in a music stand holder. After we put the music stands away, we all rushed to help put the stools away. Every one tried to hold the most stools and put them away. The most I carried was four.” –
“I really enjoyed the Grade 4 Strings concert. It was really interesting to put my learning into action and perform in front of an audience. I was really proud when my parents said I did great. I didn’t expect so many people to come. I showed confidence when I played in front of an audience. It is hard when you play with a group because you have to play in unison. I felt kind of nervous because this was my first concert with a group. Mrs. Smith is a really nice teacher because she always helps you when you make a mistake. I always look forward to strings because it is really fun. I want to thank Mrs. Smith for being such a nice and helpful teacher. My favourite song is “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”.” –
See more photos of the Grade 4 Strings Assembly at the SMUS Photo Gallery.