Fifth grade orchestra delivers first holiday concert since pre-COVID

The fifth grade orchestra students had their first concert in the high school auditorium on Tuesday, Dec. 7. 

Conducted and led by Anne Osborne and Alexis Kraayenbrink, the students performed three pieces when their concert started at 6 p.m. Students dressed nicely and brought their instruments and music ready to play after months of rehearsals. 

Osborne started teaching orchestra in the public schools of Iowa in 1991. Her first job was teaching high school and middle school orchestra in the Cedar Rapids schools (three years), and then she taught elementary (grades four-six) orchestra in Iowa City for a year, then fifth-12th grade orchestra in Pella for five years, then fifth-12th grade orchestra in Indianola for 16 years, and now she has been teaching in Cedar Falls since 2016. 

Osborne said, “I taught at the high school and Holmes for my first two years in the district. For the past four years, I’ve been teaching orchestra at the high school, as well as Southdale and Aldrich. Mrs. Kraayenbrink and I team teach the elementary orchestra rehearsals, which take place at the high school from 7:30-8:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays (fifth grade), and Wednesdays and Fridays (sixth grade).”

COVID-19 has made an impact on many sports and arts over the past two years, but Osborne said the orchestra’s of Cedar Falls have overcome it and are finally able to perform again. “Two years ago, the elementary orchestra students (grade five and six) had a concert in December, and then since everything shut down after spring break. They didn’t have an all-city or May concert. The fourth graders never had a concert at all for that year. Last year, we had early-morning orchestra rehearsals at each individual school for most of the year, since we were not permitted to combine schools for many months. We were finally able to have early-morning elementary orchestra with the schools combined in April, but we only had it once a week for eight weeks. Elementary orchestra also did not have any in-person concerts last year. Instead, each group made a video of their concert pieces and shared it with the parents. This year, we are once again combining all of the schools for our early-morning rehearsals, and we started in September (meeting twice a week). Each child has their own music stand, and we have everyone spaced apart  more than ‘pre-COVID.’ We also try to keep students from each school sitting next to each other, and we strongly encourage masks to be worn in each rehearsal. Mrs. Kraayenbrink and I always wear a mask in rehearsals, and we use a mic to help project our voices in rehearsals (it’s hard to hear the director in a big group when they are wearing a mask).” 

Students have been practicing and a week ago the auditorium rang with the sweet sounds of the students’ strings as well as the piano accompaniment of Sarah Smith. The violins, violas, cellos and three bass players were all in sync and in tune because of their hard work. 

Osborne said, “The students began working on the concert music in September. Each group practiced the concert pieces two days a week in their early-morning rehearsals. Students were expected to practice their music at home, and they also worked on it in their small group lessons at each school (along with their lesson book). Mrs. Kraayenbrink and I were very pleased with how the students performed, and we have received many positive comments from parents. I think finally having a performance in front of a live audience made the students feel great, and it was wonderful for them to show their parents how well they can play together as an ensemble.”

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