How to Manage Your Beginner Strings Program in January

January 14, 2015 Ward Dilmore

Congratulations on surviving the holiday season! As musicians, it’s our busiest time of year because our efforts and musical gifts contribute real meaning to the holidays.

The month ahead provides an excellent opportunity for your beginner strings to participate in a very meaningful moment in their years in strings. The opportunity is known as The Arch of Bows, and it’s a tradition that will help your students learn the positive aspects of being members of a family of musicians who learn, support, and perform together.

You have approximately five weeks to teach your students Beethoven’s Ode To Joy. Played in the key of D, the Ode has enough repetition and challenge to inspire your students to perform their ceremonial music with a real sense of accomplishment.


Here’s a checklist for you:

First, in your monthly parent meeting during January, invite parents of beginners to join you and their son/daughter for the February ceremony that will take place during a school day, as close to Valentine’s Day as possible. It will be a moment of great pride for family members.

Hold your ceremony in your school gym or cafeteria. Time the event so that you begin your Arch of Bows ceremony by talking to the parents ten minutes before their beginning strings child is called out of class. Explain to the parents that the tradition is an important moment when their child is going to earn their place in the school String Orchestra.

Bus as many high school strings members to the ceremony as possible (and be sure to take the HS strings students to lunch at a local pizzeria before returning them to their high school).

Have your parent group order ribbons with medallions (preferably with a music theme) for each beginner. During the ceremony, the parents will place the award ribbons around the neck of their child.


Next month we’ll discuss the details of the ceremony, but for now focus on these important elements of your Arch of Bows:

1)      Teach your beginners Ode To Joy– to be performed as a group in unison

2)      Alert the parents of beginners that the Arch of Bows will take place at a specific day and time in the school cafeteria or gym

3)      Get permission to take as many HS strings players on a field trip during the ceremony day and arrange for bus transportation if necessary.

4)      Collect permission slips from your HS students.

5)      Reserve a cafeteria or gym room for your ceremony

6)      Alert your local restaurant that you will be bringing the HS strings players for lunch. Alert the HS cafeteria that your will be taking x students out to lunch.

7)      Alert the local newspaper about your ceremony and have them send a photographer if possible.

Good luck with your preparations! The Arch of Bows will be a day to remember.

Next month: the fun details of your ceremony!

About the Author

Ward Dilmore

Ward Dilmore is a recently retired music teacher from Wilmington High School, MA where he grew his string orchestra from 12 students to over 450, in large part due to his incorporation of foreign travel into the program. Ward initially traveled with other companies, but once he found Encore, he never looked back. He has taken his ‘Strings Attached’ orchestra overseas with Encore 7 times, in total taking over 1,200 students abroad during his years at Wilmington.

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