Handbook 2017-2018

Evelyn Champion, Director


Hello! Welcome (back) to the Northwestern Middle School Orchestra! I’m so excited for what this year has to hold and I can’t wait to work with you all.  I am pleased to have this opportunity to share wonderful musical experiences with you over the course of our time together. The purpose of the Northwestern Middle School Orchestra is to provide an invaluable experience in music through participation in an ensemble. Students master performing skills on their instruments, serve the school and community through quality performances, and enhance school spirit! Through disciplined work, we gain skills in teamwork and leadership.

Instructional Goals

As in any other academic class, the goal of a music class is to increase knowledge, develop skills, and cultivate an appreciation for subject matter. This may be accomplished through the use of various techniques including lecture, demonstration, experimentation, practice, testing (oral and written), and performance ability demonstration. The demonstration may entail an individual or small ensemble performance for other class members, performance for other student groups, or for invited guests during regular school hours or outside the school day. Music materials for use in classes will be selected to promote technical and musical development.

Conduct- Rehearsal Skills

In order for a rehearsal to run smoothly, it is important that we are all working together towards the same goals. To accomplish this, a code of conduct is expected to be followed by all students.

  1. Enter classroom quietly and ready to play
  2. Get your materials and sit down and immediately tune your instrument
  3. Show respect for yourself, the teacher, and other members of the class
  4. Show respect for equipment by meeting the expectations for use and care
  5. Follow directions and abide by school rules
  6. Participate in learning and show a positive attitude
  7. Never play out of turn. Always listen to the director, without “noodling”
  8. Be positive and helpful towards others, not critical
  9. Leave any drama outside the classroom, and just enjoy playing!

The attitude of a true musician should be one of striving for continuous progress. There is always something that can be improved upon, regardless of how advanced the students may be. Having the self-respect and self-discipline to strive for continuous improvement is a challenge that everyone should work hard to attain. Music is one of the few subjects that requires everyone’s TOTAL cooperation for students to achieve. In math class, if four students perform well and the fifth one fails, it has little to no effect on the successful ones. If four music students are playing well and the fifth student is missing every note, it could be potentially disastrous to the performance. Cooperation is vitally important if those who excel are to help those who have some difficulty.

When students are out of the building, whether on field trips or performing, they are representing the school as well as this organization. As such, students are expected to act with impeccable manners and behavior.


All students should keep their fingernails trimmed. Acrylic nails are not allowed, as they interfere with position on a stringed instrument.


Instrument Care

Students are responsible for providing their own instruments. There are a few school instruments available for student use for a nominal fee that will be distributed based on financial need. Instruments you can rent at local music stores are usually higher quality. Students using school instruments are required to replace any strings that break. Assignment of these instruments will be at the discretion of the director. Students may procure instruments from any local music store. Parents are strongly encouraged not to purchase instruments from stores which do not provide professional repair. Instruments purchased off of the internet and from less reputable dealers are usually of questionable quality and typically necessitate many expensive repairs. Any families considering purchasing an instrument should consult the director prior to purchase.

In addition to ensuring that the instruments are of good quality, parents are responsible for maintaining the instruments. This includes providing strings, rosin and rehairing of bows as necessary. Instruments should be stored somewhere in the home where they will not be tripped over, dropped, or exposed to rapid temperature change. Please do NOT leave instruments in hot cars for long periods of time as it can cause permanent damage to the instruments.

All students will be required to have an extra set of strings for use in case of breakage. Extra strings should be in the students case at all times as a string can break at any time. There are a limited number of strings available in the orchestra room, but students will need to purchase or replace them if used. The charge for a new string is $5.00 per violin/viola string, and $10.00 per cello string.


Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect  practice makes perfect.  Here are some tips to make practice sessions more effective and productive:

  • Practice a little every day. Even if you can only practice for 5-10 minutes, it is better than no practice!
  • Then again, if you only practice 5 minutes a day, you will probably not see the progress for which you are hoping. 30 minutes a day is recommended.
  • Don’t try to put all your practice time in one session. Quality is more important than quantity. You don’t eat all your food for one day at breakfast, so don’t try to “cram” all of your practicing in at once.
  • Practice at the same times every day. Establishing a routine for your practice time will help you be more consistent.
  • Practice difficult passages slowly. Speed will come, but accuracy must be practiced. Try using a metronome (or to start slowly and gradually speed up little by little
  • Spend the majority of your practice on difficult passages! Warm-up with scales and exercises from class, work on difficult passages, and only then  reward yourself at the end with something that you really enjoy.

Room Policy

No gum, food, or drink (besides water) will be permitted in the orchestra room or the orchestra storage room.  Finish your snack elsewhere.  Please do not put your feet in the chairs or leave trash around the room. Only use pencil on original copies of music, and put away your music folder carefully at the end of class. If you take something out, please put it away! We need to take care of the music, equipment and area that we have!

Students will not handle other students’ instruments.

Uniform Policy

It is important not only to play our best, but also to look our best as a group.

The Northwestern Middle School Orchestra uniforms will consist of:

  • A polo shirt with the NMS Orchestra logo, tucked in
  • Black dress pants (jeans, sweatpants, leggings, etc. not permitted)
  • Black dress shoes that fit (black tennis shoes, toms, converse, etc. not permitted)- NO white on shoes please
  • Black socks
  • Black belt (recommended)

Students are expected to wear the full uniform for performances. Black jeans and black sneakers/athletic shoes are not permitted.  This will be the standard performing attire for all concerts unless otherwise noted.

Our casual uniform for school assemblies and less formal events will be our Music Department T-Shirt with jeans.

Concert Policy

Performance is an important aspect of a student’s learning experience in a musical ensemble. By performing both alone and with others, students are able to gain the full benefit of the musical experience. Performances are the most exciting part of being a musician! It is our chance to demonstrate what we have learned.  All students are expected to be at concerts.

Request for an excused absence must be in writing from a parent one week before the concert date.  Illness or emergency explanations will be accepted upon the student’s return to school.

Those with excused absences will need to make an appointment with the director in order to play through all of their concert pieces or complete an alternate project for the concert grade. This must be taken care of within a week after the concert date.

Concert Dates

Please see the Orchestra Event Calendar.

*All concerts are mandatory for a grade unless otherwise specified


Events and Opportunities

Fulton County Youth Orchestra

This is an orchestra that meets on a weekly basis. Students are encouraged to audition! The group will be under the direction of Sharon Anderson and James Barket.  Each year we have a number of students who participate and who grow tremendously from the experience.  Visit for further information.

Solo & Ensemble Performance Evaluation

This GMEA (Georgia Music Educator’s Association) event is not required, but strongly encouraged.  Students have the opportunity to participate in this adjudicated event as a small ensemble. Before/after school rehearsals will be necessary to prepare for this event. Students interested in participating should speak with the director regarding music selection and participation.

All-State Orchestra

Please see the All State Orchestra Information handout (updated coming soon!). Students wishing to participate in this ensemble must pass two rounds of auditions.  Students who choose to participate will be asked to perform a required etude, list of scales, and sight-reading. This information will be given to students within the first few weeks of school.  Although not required, private lessons are strongly encouraged for students that wish to pursue the All-State experience.

District Five Honor Orchestra Clinic

This is an honor event held in March for which students are recommended (up to 6 from each grade level) or may be placed by audition. More information will be published closer to the date. Students have the opportunity to work with expert clinicians in preparing a program for a series of concerts at the end of the day.

Large Group Performance Evaluation (LGPE) – Mid February

This performance, which is typically scheduled during the school day, will be held at Centennial HS this year. This is our most important performance of the year and all 7th and 8th grade students are required to participate.  Students and the director are given positive feedback and constructive criticism that will enable us to continue our musical growth. Each group will perform three selections as well as sightread/clinic.  Groups are adjudicated by expert judges from around the county and state. Please make sure to keep all possible dates open on your calendar—we do not know until closer to the date what day and time we will perform.

Link to Orchestra Syllabus

Receipt of Handbook Form for Parents Please Click Here

If you have any questions please contact Mrs. Champion at