Beginning Band & Strings
Our beginning ensembles are where all the fun starts! We generally start first-timers at about eight years of age depending on maturity (parents know best!). We like to put a real, full-sized wind instrument or appropriately sized stringed instrument in the hands of a new student. So, the learner has to have some hand-eye dexterity, some physical ability, be able to read, and be able to take action on verbal directions. We also invite parents to grab an instrument and learn alongside their children – it’s a lot of fun!
Student musicians with a year or two of training from another program or with some private instructional experience will often jump in here to refresh fundamentals and get acquainted with the group. NHME reserves the right to place people within its ensembles based on an evaluation of skill and ability presented at first rehearsal; we’ll work closely with these musicians and their families to ensure they don’t get bored or get overwhelmed either.
Check out our FAQ page for articles and guidance on choosing an instrument to learn. If a first choice doesn’t quite work out, don’t worry! We’re not locked into that first selection. We can help the student try something else. For example, trumpeters often find horn in F or baritone horn better, and clarinetists sometimes transfer to saxophone.
A band needs flutes, clarinets, saxophones, trumpets, horns, trombones, baritones, and percussionists*.
Prospective tuba players might not have grown enough yet to handle this big instrument; baritone or trombone might be a better first start. With oboe and bassoon, we recommend private instruction in parallel with group instruction. String orchestra needs violins, violas, cellos, and basses. Click here to learn about choosing the right size of stringed instrument for a new learner.
Our seasoned musicians will often return to the beginning ensembles to learn a second instrument while participating in the advanced ensembles. They bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the beginning classes. We hold the expert soloists and the versatile instrument-doublers in high regard. Many of our students participate in ALL of NHME’s ensembles: learning viola in beginning strings, singing alto in choir, and playing xylophone with the band – what fun!
For beginning students, our learning resources page has a lot of helpful videos about instrument assembly, making first sounds, and instrument care. Beginning classes last for an hour and a half under the guidance of our directors whom are all experienced, degreed professionals. By the end of the year, our beginning students will have completed books 1 and 2 of Essential Elements. They'll be able to read and play grade 1.5 music. Percussionists will be counting well, winds will know a few major scales from memory, clarinets can get over the break, and string players will be able to demonstrate both in-tune pizzicato and smooth bowing techniques. We host our beginning ensembles "on demand". When enough interested students sign up in one location, we add the class to our schedule; so, invite your friends and families to get in on the excitement!
Beginning ensembles perform at both our winter and spring concerts. Then, it’s off to summer workshops and into the advanced ensembles next fall!
We start first-time beginners, new students with no prior experience, in September at the start of our new season. Advanced students learning a new instrument are encouraged to join us in September too. We'll start making sounds on these strange contraptions and work towards completing Book #1 in December. After the Winter Concert, we'll regather in January and start delving into Book #2. By the end of January, string players will have even, smooth bowings and precise, pizzicato plucking down pat. Clarinetists will be able to get over the break, and percussionists* will have the basic set of rudiments in their heads and hands. Everyone will be able to play two or three full scales from memory, and play in tune with one another. We'll complete Book #2 by May and perform in the Spring Concert! Musicians with some prior experiences or instruction, but who might not yet be ready for the advanced ensembles, can jump in with us in the beginning band or string orchestra at any time mid-year or mid-semester. And, parents are encouraged to grab an instrument and learn alongside their children. Why not? It's fun, and sure beats sitting on the sidelines! Give us acall or send us a message and get ready for an amazing journey of discovery and exploration!
*Note: NHME's larger percussion equipment is kept and played at our Tecumseh location. Please consider attendance in Tecumseh for beginning drummers. Also, musicians with prior piano training make excellent percussionists!