Policy and Procedures

Orchestra Grade Policy

These are components to determining student grades in orchestra: Rehearsal Etiquette, Lessons, Written Assignments or Tests, Playing Tests, Performances, PIE Charts (grades 5-6 only) and Projects (grades 7-12 only). The weight of each component may vary depending on the activities involved in the grading period.

Rehearsal Etiquette 

Proper etiquette  is expected of all orchestra students. Students will earn points based on how well they follow our established Rehearsal Expectations.


Individual instruction is crucial to students success in orchestra. Orchestra students are required to attend small group (1-8 students) lessons at school. Lessons are approximately 20 minutes. Symphony students (grades 10-12) students must sign-up and attend two lessons/quarter. Sinfonia students (grade 8-9) will generally have bi-weekly large group lessons. Students in grades 5-7 will be scheduled for weekly small group lessons. Students will always have some sort of playing test as a part of each lesson. The online grade book will be updated after each cycle of lessons. Any lesson missed must be made-up. If the instructor misses a lesson, it will be rescheduled by the instructor.

Written Assignments

Students will typically be given at least one written tests, quiz or assignment each quarter (more in grades 10-12). These are usually completed in Schoology for grades 8-12. All work is graded by total points. 

Playing Tests

There are two types of assessments will be used in orchestra: auditions (grades 8-12 only) and playing tests. Auditions are more formal. They are graded with a rubric and based on a total number of points. Students will be typically be notified what's going to heard on an audition at least a few weeks in advance. Playing test are more informal. Playing tests usually have no more than a week's notice and typically happen as a part of a lesson. Auditions are typically worth at least 100 points. Playing tests are typically worth 10-30 points. 


There are three types of orchestra performance: concerts, orchestra contests or festivals and solo/ensemble contest. Students are expected to attend and participate in all performances as per the Concert and Event Attendance Policy.

Individual Practice

There is an expectation that students will practice outside of class time. The minimum expectation is 30 minutes/week or 4-5 hours/quarter. Students in grades 5-6  will document their weekly practice on the PIE (Practice Instrument Everyday) Charts. Students who are a member of one of the jazz orchestras (they must attend a majority of the weekly rehearsals) will be exempt from this requirement (they are still expected to practice).


Symphony, Sinfonia and Gold Orchestra 7 students must complete (at least) two projects to be eligible for a B or four projects to be eligible for an A. For additional projects, students will receive extra credit.

Project List

1. Extra private lesson inside or outside of school.
2. Document on a PIE chart, two hours of individual practice in one week (must submit documentation the following week).
3. Rehearsal/performance in an orchestra outside of school .
4. Rehearsal/performance of Jazz Strings or Jazz Junior.
5. Rehearsal/performance in a small group.
6. Audition for an honors program.
7. Attend an honors program, clinic or camp.
8. Perform in a solo role at a concert.
9. Perform as a principal at a concert. 
10. Join and attend Music Listening Contest (grades 9-12).
11. Perform in an additional ensemble (or solo) for contest.
12. Perform on your instrument outside of school.
13. Assist with a younger orchestra class.
14. Teach a lesson to another student.
15. Act as a leader for a sectional or orchestra rehearsal.
16. Be a librarian for your orchestra (help sort music after a concert).
17. Be a stage hand for your orchestra (before or after concert).
18. Write or arrange a composition for your instrument.
19. Write a short original report (on a topic approved by the instructor).
20. Attend a concert and bring in a program (must be a concert you are not performing in).
21. Read a music related book (fiction or non-fiction) and write a short report or give a short oral report. The book should be pre-approved by the instructor.

Pine Island Schools Music Department
Performance Attendance Policy 

Students and parents will receive a list of scheduled performance dates at the beginning of the school year. Attendance at all events is mandatory. Failure to attend a performance will prevent a student from earning points for the event. Students (or their parents) must notify their director in advance of any performance conflicts. The director will determine if the absence is excused. Work will be an unexcused absence. In case of emergency, notify the director prior to the performance. The most current list of orchestra events can be found here, Orchestra Event Schedule

Solo and Ensemble Contest

All students will be required to participate in Solo and Ensemble Contest. Symphony students will be assigned to an ensemble for the MSHSL Small Group Contest. Freshman will perform a solo for that contest. 7th and 8th grade students will perform a solo for the Pine Island Middle School Orchestra Contest. Students are encouraged, but not required, to prepare and perform in a solo or additional ensemble for contest. The selection(s) performed must be approved by the director.

Symphony Auditions

This fall, Symphony students will audition outside of class for the instructor during the 2nd and 3rd weeks of August. The audition will consist of selected scales and arpeggios, a prepared piece and sight-reading. After the first audition, students will record an audition once per quarter during class. These auditions will be supervised by members of the orchestra committee and will be judged by the instructor. Music for these auditions will include a selected scale and arpeggio and excerpts from the current repertoire of the orchestra. Students will be given the audition assignment at least three weeks prior to the concert and the auditions will be completed at least a week before the concert. Auditions are typically worth at least 100 points. Students who fail to follow these procedures and time lines may not be eligible to earn full points for their audition.

Sinfonia Auditions

Sinfonia students will audition during the first three weeks of the second quarter. The audition will consist of selected scales and arpeggios, a prepared piece and sight-reading. After seating is established, students may challenge the person ahead of them once per quarter.  Music will be assigned for the challenge by the instructor and the challenge will take place on a mutually agreeable day (outside of class time) at least one week after the assignment and at least one week prior to any performance. The challenge maybe recorded or in person with the instructor in either instance acting as judge.

Concert Etiquette

We are excited to put on our concerts in our state of the art Performing Arts Center. Students and their parents are encouraged to attend orchestra concerts. During concerts audience members should be respectful and display proper concert behavior. As a general rule, applause comes at the end of full works (not between movements). Recording or taking pictures is usually not allowed at professional concerts. Silence during performances is expected. The audience should remain seated, entering and exiting the hall only between works or intermissions.

Performance (Concert) Attire

Students in the Sinfonia and Symphony orchestras should where the same clothing for concerts and other public performances: black shirt or sweater, black dress slacks or skirt, black socks or nylons and black dress shoes. Students in grades 5-7 will wear dressy, concert appropriate clothing. Short skirts or other revealing clothing is not permitted. Performance attire needs to conform to the schools' dress code policy.

Music Policy

All students will be issued a folder and orchestra music at the beginning of the year. Throughout the year more music will be issued. In grades 5-7, music will not be collected after performance. In grade 8-12 most music (and folders) will be collected after performances. Each student will receive a part, even though they may share a stand. It is the students responsibility to keep all folders and parts in reasonably good condition. Fines maybe charged for lost or damaged folders and music. 

Students will be required to purchase the instruction book. The Symphony will use Habits of a Successful String Musician. The cost of this book is $10. The Sinfonia will use Learn to Play! Book 3. The cost of this book is $12. Freshman will be required to purchase solo music for contest. Gold Orchestra 7 will use Learn to Play! Book 2 (the same book as last year). The Maroon Orchestra 6 will use the new version of Learn to Play! Book 2. The cost of this book is $12. The Panther  Orchestra 5 will use Learn to Play! Book 1. The cost of this book is $10. All books are available for purchase at school.

Other materials will also be provided by the instructor. Orchestral, small ensemble and solo works are available at school. They will be provided as needed by the instructor. Students are also encouraged to purchase etude and solo materials for themselves through a music retailer.


The school provides violoncellos and double basses, but not violins and violas. All users of school instrument are charged a user fee of $100. The fee must be paid before the end of September. For this fee, each student will be entitled to have an instrument at home and another one at school (as availability permits). The instrument used at school will probably be shared with others. If two siblings play the same instrument, the older student’s fee will be lowered to $50. All students will be given a designated storage spot in the music area. If a student’s violin or viola are unavailable there are a limited number of school instruments for student use on a short term basis. Use of other student’s instruments without permission is not acceptable. For security reasons, the music area will be locked at approximately 4:30 PM each weekday and remain locked through the weekend. Students needing instruments after school hours need to make arrangements to store their instrument somewhere else. All privately owned instruments should have a name tag on the outside and inside of the case. It is expected that privately owned instruments will go home over the weekend.

Other Equipment

Besides an instrument and bow, students should have with them at all times a cleaning cloth, pencil, rosin, shoulder rest (violin and viola), rock stop (violoncello and double bass) and music folder. Students should also own a metronome, tuner and a wire folding music stand. It is recommended that students owning their instrument have an extra set of strings in their case.

Orchestra Drop Policy

Students considering dropping orchestra should stay in orchestra. That being said, if a parent feels their child would benefit from dropping orchestra they should contact the director for a consultation and evaluation of the situation. According to Middle School policy, students in grades 5-8, are not allowed to drop orchestra, band or choir during the school year. This provides the contiunuity needed to maintain our ensembles and insure that an informed decision is made about the student dropping orchestra. Students do benefit from remaining in orchestra. This fact is born out by both experience and scientific research. If a student wishes to return to orchestra, the parents should again consult with the director.

Contact: Joseph Mish
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