For 5th graders dreaming of playing the cello like Yo-Yo Ma or the violin like a Juilliard graduate, the annual fall orchestra sign-ups are the first step down a path that is limited only by their will to succeed.
While Jenison 6th graders are eligible for band and have their own fitting and instrument pairing evening, the opportunity to play in the Wildcat orchestra begins in 5th grade with an instrument rental and fitting in the junior high.
But orchestra teacher Carol Johnson explains that the journey to a music career actually begins at the end of 4th grade when she travels to each school with a selection of stringed instruments for the kids to hear and touch. Because this occurs right before summer vacation, students are given time to consider which instrument — if any — they’d like to play.
By the time September rolls around, those same students have begun 5th grade and have reached a decision with the help of their parents. They enter the cafeteria on a mission to find the best fit — and perhaps the best price — for their rental.
This year, three area rental companies were on-site for families to get acquainted with: Aaron’s Instruments, Baroque Violin Shop and Marshall Music Co. Having rental companies come to the school is just one way that the Jenison Music Program strives to support busy families and make it easier to consider trying something new.
Aaron Reiley, of Aaron’s Instruments, says that they started participating in this event five years ago.
“We originally came to JPS because they have a great orchestra program. I’ve known Dan (Scott) for a long time and it was a big factor in our decision to get on board. In fact, our family decided to move to Jenison for that reason! Once we saw the music program we wanted to work with JPS.”
Families and students present for the event were helped by volunteers directing traffic and answering questions. They were also excited for the chance to take home their very own instrument. Ella Uganski, a 5th grader picking up her own violin had this to say:
“I chose the violin because it sounds the best and it looks the most fun to do. I thought about the viola for a couple of minutes, but then I changed my mind. I’m really excited,” Ella said, beaming ear to ear.
Students like Ella will benefit from the early and consistent teaching that Jenison offers. She and her orchestra classmates will receive one afternoon of instruction in her own elementary building (45 minute class) and will also make a personal commitment to travel to the junior high two additional times per week before school. This kind of approach means that kids will play their first song on the first day of class — and be ready to perform a holiday concert by December!
Mrs. Johnson is looking forward to a new group of musicians, as well as the prospect of concerts in Jenison’s new Fine Arts Center.
How about you? Is your student in the orchestra? What do they love most about it? Leave a comment and tell us your story!