Elementary orchestras finish with polished performances after year of practices

Last Thursday the elementary schools had orchestra concerts at the high school. On May 12 at 6 p.m. the fourth grade concert performed a few songs, and then the fifth and sixth graders had a concert at 7 p.m. The students were led by orchestra teachers Ann Osbourne, Alexis Kraayenbrink and Kim Tura. 

The fourth graders played “Seminole Chant,” “Lightly Row,” “Hot Cross Buns,” “Happy Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Natalie’s Rose.” The 5th graders played “Dragon Slayer,” “Medieval Kings” and “Conquest.” The sixth graders played “Crossing Pirates Cove,” “the Jurassic Park theme” and “Gauntlet,” and the fifth and sixth graders played “Stringchant” together.

Osbourne said, “The fourth grade students have been playing since mid-September. They have one lesson at their school every six school days (it’s a six-day rotating cycle). They had one combined (all seven elementary schools) rehearsal on the day of the concert. The rehearsal was on the high school stage. They did a great job at the concert, and I was very proud of them.” 

“The fifth graders have been playing since mid-January of last year. Like the fourth graders, they get one lesson at school every six days. Along with that, they have had early-morning combined rehearsals since September. The rehearsals are on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:40-8:30 a.m. All seven schools are combined for rehearsals, and they take place in the high school orchestra room. They are bussed to their individual schools after we are done rehearsing. They have made great progress, and I’m looking forward to having them again as sixth graders.”

“The sixth graders have been playing since September of their fourth grade year, but COVID put them to a grinding halt in March of that school year. They never even had a concert that year. In fifth grade, they started back up with lessons when school started, but the early-morning rehearsals were at each individual school (due to COVID precautions). In April, we were finally allowed to have early-morning combined rehearsals at the high school, but instead of having an in-person concert, we made a video and sent it out to all of the parents. This past year, we have had early-morning orchestra rehearsals at the high school on Wednesdays and Fridays. They have made such wonderful progress this year,” Osbourne said. 

She teaches at Cedar Falls High School, Aldrich and Southdale. “I also co-teach (with Mrs. Kraayenbrink) the early-morning fifth and sixth grade rehearsals four days a week.”

Kraayenbrink is another orchestra teacher who teaches at Cedar Heights, Hansen, Lincoln and North Cedar Elementary Schools. She said, “I am very proud of the orchestras this year. In listening to both concerts, you can hear the growth between each grade level. The fourth grade is a huge group, and we are exploring playing together with the other instruments with everyone playing the melody. When they reach fifth grade, they learn how to rehearse, perform, improve their sound and play music where each instrument has a different part. By sixth grade, they are not only playing much more challenging music, but the intonation, balance, tone and dynamics have improved.”

The grades slowly get less and less members each year, and the students have to put in more and more commitment and work. Fifth grader Lila Breit has Beth Bobeldyk as a teacher and she plays viola. “I think orchestra is amazing. You get to meet new people and learn songs with them,” she said. “I started orchestra last January and loved it. I thought the last concert was fun. We got to play music for people and listen to the sixth grade play their songs. Then we also got to play a whole song with the sixth as well. It was really fun.” 

Her friend Hadley Gilbert who plays the violin agreed. “I personally loved the last concert because the songs were very fun and complex and then we got to sit down and listen to the sixth grade play and get an idea about what I will be doing next year.” 

Tura said, “As you would expect in a public school program, we have a diverse group of students with varying levels of development, practicing and parental support, so we have a wide range of skills, but I think that is one of the things that makes our orchestras unique and a great experience for our students.”

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