Mason Middle School

Orchestra Handbook





Erin Brasse & Kristen Thiel, 

(513) 398-9035 ext. 46280


Mission Statement


The orchestras of the Mason City School District are dedicated to

continuous musical and personal development culminating in

meaningful musical experiences for all orchestra members and our audiences.


We are committed to the development of a lifelong interest in and

appreciation of our musical tradition.


With patience, understanding, caring, and commitment, we will strive to develop in each of our orchestra members the ideals of leadership, personal responsibility, and pride,

so we may become the model of an enlightened community.






➢       LOGICAL -  To provide each orchestra member a practical knowledge of music so she/he can appreciate and participate in the aesthetic experience of  listening to and making music.


➢       TECHNICAL - To provide each orchestra member with the skills needed to participate fully in the orchestral experience.


➢       CITIZENSHIP -  To help the student become a better citizen through membership in a community where each person’s contribution is equal in importance.


➢       PERFORMANCE - To provide rewarding performance and learning experiences for all members of the orchestra and audience.


➢       EMOTION - To promote personal expression and creativity through the making of  music.


➢       COMMUNITY - To continually broaden the musical interests of each member and our  community through the performance of fine yet diverse orchestral repertoire.


        TEAMWORK - To collaborate with our fellow musicians performing in chorus and band to experience the full spectrum of musical expression and to promote a friendly and rewarding environment.


Concert Attendance


Concert attendance is mandatory!  All members will be expected to play in all scheduled performances dressed in proper concert attire (see below).  Students should arrive at the performance venue at least thirty-five minutes before the concert starts to tune and warm up.


Performance attendance is equal to 30% of a student’s grade in orchestra.  An unexcused absence from a performance will result in a failing grade for that portion of their average.  Only in cases of extreme family emergency, personal illness, or unavoidable circumstances approved in advance by the director will a student be excused from a performance. If there is any concern over an unavoidable conflict, please notify the director as soon as possible so that arrangements can be made for the performance.


In the event of an excused absence, the student may receive the full 30% performance grade credit by bringing in a letter two weeks in advance, or in emergencies, upon their return to school, signed by the student’s parents explaining the reason for their absence.  The director may call for further verification.  In addition, the student must set up a “make-up session” with the director where they will “perform” the pieces from the concert for the director.  Just as a student who sick the day of a major test is allowed to make up the test, so is a student who is absent the day of a performance. 

Students with unexcused absences may receive half of their performance grade (15%) by initiating and attending a “make up session”.

Concert Attire 


Concert dress gives an ensemble a more uniform appearance.

Students will be required to purchase a Mason Orchestra polo through the orchestra directors. Polos will be available to order in the fall of each school year.

Please make note of this requirement so that it is available by the time of the first performance.





Performance Dates for 2016-2017 

Thursday, December 8th                     8th Grade Orchestra Concert 

6:00, 6:45, or 7:30 p.m. 


Monday, December 12th                      7th Grade Orchestra Concert

                                                              6:00, 6:45, or 7:30 p.m.


 Saturday, March 25                           OMEA Solo & Ensemble Festival

 (optional event)                                                        

Tuesday-Thursday                        7th and 8th Grade Spring Concerts

May 2nd, 3rd, or 4th                

Friday or Saturday, May 12th-13th        OMEA JH Large Group Adjudicated Event

                                                (Bell 6 only)

**All events will be held in the Mason Middle School Auditorium

For concerts with multiple times, each class will be assigned a specific performance time for each concert.  

*Please note: Each class will be assigned one evening for the spring concert (May 2, 3, or 4th). Please mark all three dates down. By the beginning of second semester, we will inform students of which date their class will be performing in the spring.

Student Expectations 


1.    Do your best every day.  Be proud of what you are doing and show it! 

2.    Respect:   Yourself, others, and property (this includes instruments).

3.    Practicing at home is essential.  Your success depends on it!

4.    Enjoy yourself!  Being part of our orchestra is a very special opportunity

for you to make some wonderful friends and to have lots of fun!




Rehearsal Procedures 


1.    Every student must bring their own instrument, music, pencil and other necessary equipment to orchestra every day.  Failure to do so will result in a deduction of points from the daily rehearsal skills grade. 

2.    There is to be no individual playing during rehearsals unless requested by the director.  This will result in a deduction of points from the daily participation grade.

3.    There is not to be talking or other disturbance during the rehearsal.  This is vital to the effective use of rehearsal time and will be strictly enforced.

4.    Gum chewing, eating, or drinking of any kind is not permitted during any rehearsal or performance.

5.    Each student should be seated at the time designated by the director or the student will be marked tardy. 

6.    Music folders, instruments, and equipment should be kept in their proper storage places when not in use.  Please note that the music is provided by the school and it is the student’s responsibility to keep track of their own music.



Grading Policy 


Class grades will be determined on the following criteria:

35% Playing Tests, Scales, Quizzes, & Homework (Practice Charts, Reflections, Worksheets, etc.)

35% Rehearsal Skills

30% Performance Grade


Homework – A minimum of 70 total minutes of practice for 7th graders and 80 total minutes of practice for 8th graders are required each week.  Students will be required to complete one assignment per week based on their weekly practice. The weekly assignment will be posted on the MMS Orchestra Website or on Google Classroom. The assignment will vary and may include things such as, logging practice minutes, video recordings, reflections, and goal setting. The assignments must be submitted each Friday by 2:20 p.m.  Periodically throughout the year, the students will also complete various worksheets that will factor into their homework grade.


Playing Tests, Scales, and Quizzes – students will be evaluated on their improvement and effort in the following areas: Music Production (tone and intonation), Music Literacy (reading rhythms and notes correctly, and interpreting dynamic markings and musical symbols), and Musicality (phrasing and expression). 


Rehearsal Skills – includes readiness to begin on time, bringing instrument, music and pencil to every class, following stated student expectations, and participating and putting forth one’s best effort in class.


Performance Grade – All students are required to attend all performances.  Please refer to the attendance policy for more details on this portion of the grade.


Instrument and Accessories 

Personal Instruments – Every orchestra student in the Mason City Schools is required to own or rent a personal instrument.  Violin and viola students need to bring their instrument to school for every class.  Instruments should not be left at school over the weekend or for more than one class.  During the winter months, we recommend that instruments not be left overnight due to inconsistent temperature inside the building. Cellists and bassists will be permitted to use a school owned instrument during school.


A student’s instrument is considered personal property, therefore Mason Middle School is not liable for any loss, theft or damage that may occur while the instrument is on school grounds or being used for a school function.  Please make sure that your rental company supplies you with maintenance and insurance or that you have placed the instrument on your homeowner’s insurance. 


**For further safety, please make sure the instrument case has a nametag with correct phone number and instruct your child to only keep the instrument in the instrument storage room or locker during the school day** 

  School-owned Instruments – Cellists and bassists are permitted to use a school-owned instrument for in-school practice only.  The school does not own any violins or violas.  School insurance is provided for school-owned instruments.  Cellists and bassists are required to rent or own an instrument for at home practice and performances.

        **Students must treat school-owned instruments well! If a student is warned for mistreating their instrument 3 times in a semester, they will receive a friday night school

Necessary Equipment -All Mason Middle School orchestra students are required to provide the following standard accessories:


Shoulder Rest (violins & violas)

Rockstop/Endpin Rest (cellos & basses--to be kept at home) 

Music stand (to keep at home)                                                                       

Method Book (see below)/Folder   

Cleaning Cloth 



Tuner or tuning app (not required until high school, but highly recommended)

1 box of kleenex (optional, but greatly appreciated)


Tuner—Students begin learning to tune their own instruments in 7th grade.  This skill is refined in 8th grade and beyond.  In order for students to practice tuning at home, it is extremely important for them to have access to a tuner.   Although not a required class material, we highly recommend that every student has one. 

If your child has access to an electronic device, many good tuning applications are available for free or for a small price.  In class, we will discuss some of the recommended tuning apps.  Students are encouraged to bring their devices to class for tuning purposes.

Tuners are also available for purchase through music stores.  A good tuner for violin and viola is the Snark SN-5 or comparable models.   There are also more expensive models if you would like to invest in a tuner with additional features.  A good tuner for cellos and basses (or another option for any string student) is the Korg Chromatic Tuner.  These are also sold by Shar Music, but you may be able to find them other places as well.  


Method Book/SmartMusic – We will be using Essential Elements 2000 for Strings as our main method book series.  All MMS orchestra students will be provided with a SmartMusic subscription for the year.  This will be provided to the students through school fees.   SmartMusic is a computer software program that can be used on a computer or iPad.  This software will give students access to method books, pieces of sheet music, and various other exercises.  There are many other exciting features of SmartMusic.  If you would like to learn more, please visit: Students that do not have access to a computer or iPad at home will be given a hard copy of the Essential Elements 2000 book.  


Sheet Music – One practice copy of each piece is provided to every orchestra student.  It is the student’s responsibility to keep track of that music, to have it with them for every class, and to return it to the director by the end of the concert.  Students will also receive a folder during the first week of school that they are to bring to each class.  All sheet music should be kept in the folder in an effort to keep it in good condition. 

Care for Your Stringed Instrument


➢       Always loosen the hair before putting the bow into the case.


➢       Never tap the bow against any object (music stands, floor, other bows, etc.) – it may ruin the bow by causing cracks or breakage.


➢       Avoid touching the hair with your fingers.  The oils from your fingers will harm the bow hair.  It will then make it hard to get a good, clear tone from the strings.


➢       Rehair Bow once a year (every two years for young players).  The work should be done by a professional repair person and will be free when needed if being rented.  


       Keep the instrument stored properly in its case when the instrument is not in use.


➢       Wipe the body of instrument before putting it in its case.  This includes the rosin dust on the strings and the bow stick (avoid touching the hair).  Use a soft, untreated cotton cloth for best results.  Do NOT use furniture polish/cleaners as this damages the varnish.


➢       NEVER attempt to repair an instrument at home.  Its glue and varnish are of a different quality than those available at a hardware store.  Any home repair (especially of cracks or varnish touch-ups) can result in destroying the instrument’s value and tone quality permanently.


➢       NEVER leave an instrument unattended in a parked car.  Extreme heat or cold can ruin the instrument’s varnish and lead to melted glue or cracks.  Humidity can also affect an instrument.  If it is too dry, an instrument can crack, too humid and the pegs will be difficult to turn.  Available products on the market to control humidity are: Dampits & Humidiguards.


➢       If the soundpost should fall, slightly loosen the strings and carefully place the instrument in its case.  Take it to the rental store as soon as possible.  Never attempt to play the instrument when the soundpost is not in place, as it can cause a crack in the body of the instrument.


       Regular maintenance of an instrument includes the replacement of strings and keeping the bridge straight (consult a repair person or your teacher about these issues).  It is a good idea to have the instrument checked once a year by a repair person or teacher to maintain good general health.  Teachers can change strings quickly for you, but are not responsible for the purchase of string

Helpful Parent Guidelines & Tips 

  A student’s interest and success in music depends a great deal on parental support and understanding.  Here are some tips for you!


➢       Set aside a regular time and suitable place for practice.  Try to make sure that the location for practice is free from distractions and conducive to practice.



➢       Select a place to store the student’s instrument in the home.  This helps the student to remember to bring the instrument to school and shows that the instrument is important and special.

➢       Make sure that your musician has his/her instrument at school on the proper days. 7th graders will come to orchestra every other day (Day 1 or Day 2 depending on their schedule).  8th graders will come to orchestra every day.  

➢       Try to give little words of encouragement and praise.  Statements such as, “That sounded a lot better that time,” and “You’re playing better in tune now,” can have a big impact.



➢       Help the student understand that the more he/she practices now, the more fun they will have later.  Home practice is a vital part of the student’s success and progress because it helps reinforce the concepts learned in class.  Without home practice, your musician may begin to fall behind and discouragement may develop because it’s no fun to not be able to keep up with the class.  With the proper encouragement, good practice habits will be formed and your child will enjoy playing in class and at home.


➢       Attend all concerts and never make fun of any strange sounds or squeaks that the students may make when playing. 



➢       Check with the teacher on a regular basis to monitor your child’s progress.  Communicate any problems that may occur in the home that will keep your student from progressing.  Also, please let your orchestra director know if you have any comments, questions, or concerns throughout the year.  We are more than happy to help and appreciate your feedback! 




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