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Episode 1: Recruitment and Retention
The "two J's" - Jessica and Janet - discuss the "two R's" - recruitment and retention! Material in this podcast is based on research journals as well as their own personal experiences.


Dillon, J. A. & Kriechbaum, C. B. (1978). How to Design and Teach a Successful String and Orchestra Program. Kjos West/Neil A Kjos, Jr. Publishers 


Edmin, C. (2016)  For White folks who teach in the hood - and the rest of y'all too: Reality pedagogy and urban education. Boston, Massachusetts : Beacon Press.


Feierabend, J. (2000). First steps in music for early elementary: The curriculum. Chicago: GIA Publications, Inc.


Hartley, L. A., & Porter, A. M. (2009). The influence of beginning instructional grade on string student enrollment, retention, and music performance. Journal of Research in Music Education, 56(4), 370–384.


Poliniak, S. (2012). Secrets of retention. Teaching Music, 19(4), 40–45.

Selby, C. (2017). Habits of a Successful Orchestra Director. (S. Rush, Ed.). Chicago: GIA Publications, Inc.

Toyne, S. (2021). Music. In Cuthbert A. & Standish A. (Eds.), What Should Schools Teach?: Disciplines, subjects and the pursuit of truth (pp. 103-121). London: UCL Press. doi:10.2307/j.ctv14t475s.13

Listen: Music

Show Notes

  • We talk briefly about"informance" (as opposed to "performance"); if you're not familiar with this, Victoria Boler's blog post about informance is a helpful resource.

  • Christopher Selby's must-have book, Habits of a Successful Orchestra Director, can be found here.

  • We mention Responsive Classrooms, but in recent years this has been renamed as Developmental Designs K-12. More info can be found here. Even if your school district doesn't use the Origins SEL curriculum, The Advisory Book has many other engaging activities beyond "Rare Birds."

  • Christopher Edmin's book, For White Folks Who Teach in the 'Hood... can be found here.

  • Read about Feierabend's 30 year plan as it applies to infants and toddlers here. 


Episode 2: Kodaly in the Orchestra Classroom

Remember learning about general music education methods such as Orff, Gordon, and Dalcroze? What about Kodaly? In this episode, Janet unpacks the Kodaly approach, which is most commonly seen in choral and general music classrooms, and discusses ways to integrate it into your string orchestra classroom setting.

Show Notes

  • The Chrome extension Transpose is great for transposing online audio/video recordings into a key that works for your students' repertoire. This is helpful for adding to Kodaly-recommended listening libraries or play-along tracks in class.

  • I mention Chapter 9 in The Child as Musician - a Handbook of Musical Development when discussing the idea of musical "button pushers." Find the book here.

  • Sight Reading Factory is a great online teaching tool for your students, as it generates sight reading examples based on criteria of your choosing. But you can also use it yourself if you want to improve your own solfege/sight-singing skills!

  • Find the Conversational Solfege level 1 teacher guide here.


Benedict, C. (2010). Methods and approaches. In H. F. Abeles & L.A. Custodero, (Eds.), Critical issues in music education: Contemporary theory and practice. Oxford University Press, (pp. 194-214).

Burnsed, V., & Fiocca, P. (1990). Bringing general music techniques to the instrumental class. Music Educators Journal, 76(6), 45.

Howard, P. M. (1996). Kodaly strategies for instrumental teachers. Music Educators Journal, 82(5), 27.

Lane, A. M. (2006). A comparison of two methods for elementary music teachers. Canadian Music Educator/Musicien Educateur Au Canada, 48(1), 39-43.

Mills, J., & McPheson, G. E. (2016). Musical literacy: Reading traditional clef notation. In G. E. McPherson (Ed.), The child as musician: A handbook of musical development (2nd ed. pp. 81-101). New York: Oxford University Press.

Thibeault, M. D. (2018). Learning with sound recordings: A history of Suzuki’s mediated pedagogy. Journal of Research in Music Education, 66(1), 6-30.

Episode 3: Technique Tips and Tricks for Group Instruction
Do you ever feel like you have to remind kids constantly about technique in the classroom, and then feel discouraged that you're correcting more than playing? Do you feel like basic things like bow holds and posture just aren't retained between class meetings? Jessica and Janet share your frustration and discuss some solutions in this episode. 

Show Notes


Barnes, G. V. (2008). Challenging the middle school orchestra. American String Teacher, 58(3), 38–41.

Barnes, G. V., Balmages, B., Gruselle, C. L., & Trowbridge, M. (2013). Measures of success for string orchestra: A comprehensive musicianship string method.  FJH Music Company Inc.


Fletcher, S., Rolland, P., Roswell, M. A., & Krolick, E. (1971). New tunes for strings. Boosey & Hawkes.


Goldie, S. B. (2019). Rehearsing the middle school orchestra. Meredith Music Publications.


Nelson, S. (1987). Beginners Please. Thames Television.


Wright, E. (2013). 10 ways to improve your school orchestra program. Strings, 27, 39-40. Retrieved from


Young, P. (2019). Playing the string game: Strategies for teaching cello and strings. Shar Music Company.

Episode 4: Games for Group Instruction

Janet and Jessica share their ideas for orchestra games that energize and enhance the classroom and rehearsal setting. Why "gamification?" It's engaging while also improving your students' skills!

Show Notes

  • A great example of an elementary Orchestra Olympics choice board is here. This particular example utilizes tunes from the Essential Elements series. 

  • Our middle/high school Orchestra Olympics activity looked something like this (shout out to Carl Davick for these ideas!): 

    • Speedy Scale relay: each person will play a 2 octave G or D scale up and down and then tap the person next to them to begin

    • Fingerboard Long Jump/luge: each person will slide up and down the length of the fingerboard and then tap the person next to them to begin

    • Ear training hurdles: as a team, figure out the Olympic theme song.  When your section is ready, collectively pluck or bow it for the class. It’s in Key of D; starting note is mi (F#)

    • Bow hold sprints: choose four team members to spider crawl their bow from frog to tip

    • Bow hold relay: pass the “baton” (paper cup)   from bow tip to bow tip. If the “baton” drops, start over with the first person

  • This thread on the SOST Facebook page has some great ideas for quick-hitter games. We discuss a few in the episode.

  • Janet's Orchestra Wheel of Destiny is here. A slightly more serious practice strategies version can be found here. Or make your own with the template!

  • Kahoot, Quizizz, and more online educational game sites build community and generate excitement. Search for ready-made quizzes, or make your own! (The interfaces are very user-friendly.) 

  • The card game Orchestras Are Awful is fun for your oldest students - or playing with your string teacher colleagues!

  • Find Jessica's emoji groups here and a slideshow of Strings Mountain here.


Droste, D. (2013). High school orchestras: new ideas and old reminders for the new school year. American String Teacher, 63(3), 36–39.


Horvath, K. A. (2003). Muscle-ship: the overlooked foundational element of stringed instrument performance technique. American String Teacher, 53(3), 68–73.


Stott, A., & Neustadter, C. (2013). Analysis of gamification in education. Simon Fraser University. Retrived from

Episode 5: Diversity in Orchestra Education with Stephen Spottswood
Public school orchestra classes are often perceived as elitist or "for white kids." One reason for this is because a symphony orchestra is a largely Euro-centric performing ensemble, performing music by dead white guys most of the time. How can we, as educators, help our BIPOC students see themselves as string players and move beyond the stereotype? We interviewed Stephen Spottswood, a Black orchestra educator and performer, for his perspective and some ideas for engaging our students' diverse cultural needs in the orchestra setting.

Show Notes

Episode 6: Advocacy in Orchestra Education with Leyla Sanyer

Our friend and colleague Leyla Sanyer is our special guest in this episode, where she discusses her best practice strategies for advocating for orchestra education in our schools. Leyla often refers to her approach as "embedded advocacy;" this episode will help you learn strategies for effective communication with stakeholders.
As a retired orchestra teacher, former president of NAfME North Central Division, and WMEA advocacy committee member, Leyla continues to do great work as a tireless advocate for arts education at the state and national level. She also generously provided us with many advocacy resources, which are linked in the notes below.

Show Notes​

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