The Strings Program at Maine Coast Waldorf School

NancyRoderickGhsMusicAs I write, our winter assembly is fast approaching. Each December, our students put on this beautiful evening of music for our entire school community. Over one hundred of Maine Coast Waldorf’s string students will perform, as well as the school’s choruses and wind instrument groups.


In the second half of third grade, students at Maine Coast Waldorf School begin the musical journey of stringed instrument study. In a special lesson taught in their classroom, the children are introduced to both the violin and cello. With the guidance of their music and class teacher, a selection is made. This decision is not taken lightly because the hope is that this child and instrument will be committed to making music together for many years to come.


The first day that strings class begins is a lovely sight. Third graders are so proud as they walk up the path with their new instrument in tow; excitement is evident on their smiling faces. For the rest of the third grade year, students have a small group lesson once a week and also meet occasionally as a whole class to play Strings Photo 1 together.


Fourth graders continue their strings work and are expected to practice regularly. The responsibility for this practice is the first experience of “homework” our students have. Fourth graders give their first performance at the winter assembly. They share the fruits of all of the hard work they have put in over the course of the year and it is quite exciting and loved by all. Throughout the year in strings class and classroom music, fourth grade students are working at learning and understanding musical notation through studying songs that they know well.  At the end of the school year the class has their own special music evening for parents and friends. At this concert they sing songs they have learned in classroom music and are proud to share again their progress with families, friends and faculty on their string instruments.


2014_dec_winter_concert_-4 In fifth and sixth grade,  children continue a weekly small group lesson on their violin or cello and also gather all together each week as an ensemble in Maine Coast’s beautiful “Merriconeag Hall.” In these “ensemble” classes, children are working at many skills. Musical elements including dynamics, listening, phrasing, and counting rhythms permeate each lesson.  But they are also working on developing patience, responsibility and teamwork as they go through the process of creating beautiful music together.  The 5th & 6th grade ensemble performs at both our winter and spring assemblies and small groups of students perform at festivals.


When students reach 7th & 8th grade, they continue their musical growth by working in small group lessons and the larger ensembles, tackling a more difficult repertoire. They are also introduced to a wider variety of musical  genres. Students continue to solidify their understanding of musical notation and theory.  They perform for the large assemblies, but also for plays and special events including the May Fair.


Strings Photo 3 At Maine Coast Waldorf High School, there are two string ensembles. At the beginning of the school year students audition and are placed in one of the two ensembles. The music for the first months of school leans towards a more traditional repertoire. Post winter break, as we work towards the spring assembly, the repertoire is a bit lighter, including fiddle and popular music.


At each level there is a regular practice expectation. Through hard work, consistent practice, playing and performing together, students gain a solid, experiential understanding of music.  This gift of music, an essential part of the human experience, is a skill they will enjoy for a lifetime.