Elementary Strings – The nineteenth Season
Sarah Gachupin - Elementary Strings Director
Established in 1998, Elementary Strings (ES) is an after-school program for violin, viola, and cello in Santa Fe Public Schools. ES operates in four satellite schools around the city, but is open to all children in the Santa Fe area. The curriculum is based on the Suzuki Method, but adapted to serve students in a group-class rather than in a private-lesson setting, and to serve students whose parental support may be less available than in the standard Suzuki model. The program is designed as a feeder to not only SFYSA's Orchestras, but also to the middle and high school orchestras of Santa Fe Public Schools.
the elementary strings curriculum
Students move through three Levels of classes within Elementary Strings. Levels I and II are structured as group classes, whose enrollment may range from 4 to 12 students. Level III is the Elementary String Orchestra, which serves as a transition to the more traditional orchestra-and-private-lesson format. After graduating from Level III, students join the SFYSA Orchestra program. ES graduates who old enough and enrolled in a Santa Fe Public School also join their school orchestra.
LEVEL I: BEGINNING STRINGS
Level I is open to students in grades 2 – 4 who have never studied a string instrument. In this first year of instruction, students learn basic playing posture and fundamental right-hand and left-hand technique through building-block songs culminating in “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” Beyond “Twinkle” students continue technical development through the study of other folk songs. Students also develop basic aural skills through listening to recordings of their music and through singing the repertory songs in class. Additional skills like stage presence, performance etiquette, introduction to the family of stringed instruments, working and performing together as an ensemble, introduction to note-reading, and the importance of home practice are also cultivated. Parents are encouraged to attend classes with their children and to supervise practice at home. All students spend only one school-year in Level I.
LEVEL II: PRE-ORCHESTRA
Level II is available to all students who have completed Level I. In this second year students are expected to master the most foundational techniques of their instrument: daily practice at home, basic rest-position and playing posture, bow-hold, shaping the left hand, and audience and performance etiquette. Slightly more challenging skills continue to be developed: following a leader, changing tempo, dynamics, and contrasting legato and staccato. Ear training continues to be developed through listening and singing. Note-reading skills, which were begun in Level I away from the instrument, are now developed on the instrument in small steps. By the end of Level II, students are expected to be working on "Etude" or "Rigadoon" from Book One of the Suzuki Method, know at least one 2-octave scale, and know the names of all notes in first position, both on their instrument and on sheet-music. A student may remain in Pre-Orchestra for more than one school-year, until their skills are sufficiently developed to move to Level III.
LEVEL III: PRELUDE STRING ORCHESTRA
& PRIVATE LESSONS
Prelude String Orchestra
The Prelude String Orchestra is the most advanced level of SFYSA's Elementary Strings program. Its purpose is to introduce very young string-instrument students to the High Art of the Orchestra. Students will play in a mixed-instrument setting consisting of violins, violas, cellos, and basses, and learn to follow a conductor while listening to members of their own section as well as those in other instrument-sections. PSO performs at the December Elementary Strings concert, and at the May Orchestras concert. The Prelude String Orchestra occupies a unique position in being both the cap-stone of the Elementary Strings program and the first stepping-stone of the Orchestras program. Click here for the PSO page.
ELEMENTARY STRINGS FARM SCHOOLS 2016 – 2017
VIOLIN (Levels I, II)
El Camino Real
VIOLA (Levels I, II)
CELLO (Levels I, II)
The private-lesson component of Level III prepares students for SFYSA’s Orchestra program. Foundational techniques ought to be automatic by now, and the skills introduced and developed in Level II should be well on their way to mastery. Level III students are introduced to more difficult and longer repertory, more complicated string-crossings, a small amount of chromaticism, hooked bowings, playing in harmony, and several 2-octave major scales. The transition from basic note-reading to true reading-at-sight is introduced. Level III students lead younger students at performances and are expected to serve as models for consistent practice, positive working attitude, excellent stage presence, and commitment to their instrument. By the end of Level III, students should be somewhere in Book 2 of the Suzuki Method and know all of Book 1 of the Suzuki Method from memory.