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In the Harding Middle School orchestra, you will play along with several other students on violin, viola, cello, or double bass. We meet at least twice a week to rehearse with everybody in your grade’s orchestra. In addition to these classes, you will have weekly individual or small group lessons with your teacher to work on skills specific to your instrument.

What is required of orchestra students

  • Classroom participation, including bringing all materials to class
  • Preparing for and attending weekly lessons
  • Attending the required concerts

What is optional of orchestra students

  • Taking private lessons (lessons from a someone who isn’t a teacher at Harding)
  • Participation in the Metro Orchestra Festival
  • Participation in the Kennedy Honor Orchestra Festival
  • Preparing a solo or small group performance for the annual all-city music contest

Orchestra supply list

While we are happy to help out with instruments, music, and other supplies as much as possible, we do not have enough to outfit our entire program. Check out the full, detailed supply list here for everything your child needs to be successful in orchestra.
In general, students will need:

  • An instrument (violin, viola, cello, or bass)
  • Essential Elements Book 1 (sixth grade), 2 (seventh grade), and 3 (eighth grade)
  • Three-ring binder (1″ or larger)
  • Shoulder rest (violin/viola)
  • Chair strap or rock stop (cello/bass)

How to get an instrument

  • Most students rent instruments from a local music store, like West Music or Schultz Strings. For students with financial need, we have a limited amount of school instruments available for a lower cost.
  • If you play the cello or the bass, you will have two instruments: a school one and a home one. You only need to obtain your home instrument—we will provide your school one, so you don’t have to worry about carrying it everywhere!
  • We don’t recommend purchasing an instrument until you are ready for a full-sized one. If you do want to purchase an instrument, try looking at reputable music stores first. 

School instrument rental

If you are unable to rent from a music store such as West Music or Schultz Strings, please contact Mr. Rees to rent a school instrument.

School instruments are rented on a school-year basis (August-June). Instruments must be returned if moving, dropping orchestra, or at the end of eighth grade.

The instrument rental contract can be found here. The fee will be added to your Infinite Campus account. If you need assistance, please do not hesitate to reach out to Mr. Rees.

When renting a school instrument, we will provide a shoulder rest or sponge (for violins and violas), chair strap (for cellos), rock stop (for basses), and rosin. Other materials (Essential Elements book, tuner, music stand, etc.) will need to be purchased by you.

If you do not qualify for free or reduced school fees, please make every effort to rent from a local music store. We have a limited number of instruments available, and we must prioritize incoming sixth graders and those with financial need.


Concerts are one of the most rewarding parts of orchestra! There are two required concerts each year for each grade. However, there are opportunities to perform in additional non-required concerts throughout the year.

Concerts are what we spend months preparing for and your classmates rely on you to be there. Concerts are generally less than one hour in length, and students are expected to stay for the entire concert (unless there is a special circumstance that has been discussed with Mr. Rees in advance).


It’s often hard to learn a new instrument in a large group. Because of this, students take individual lessons from Mr. Rees, or from a private instructor. If you take private lessons, you do not need to take lessons at Harding. If you are interested in taking private lessons, click here for a list of teachers we recommend.

If you take lessons at Harding, you will be pulled out of one of your classes for 15 minutes once a week. Scheduling is flexible, so we can work with you to schedule your lesson during your preferred class period.


Grades in orchestra are based on the National Core Arts Standards. We focus on five areas: 21st century skills, creating, performing, responding, and connecting. As long as you practice and participate in class, orchestra should be your easiest and most fun class!

  • 21st century skills: Students in orchestra will demonstrate responsibility and respect during class. We ask that you bring your materials to class every day and participate during class.
  • Creating: Students in orchestra will have the opportunity to create their own rhythm patterns, melodic patterns, and write their own music.
  • Performing: Students in orchestra will perform often in front of their peers (during class) and in front of family members and friends (concerts). In addition to performing, students will learn performance etiquette.
  • Responding: Students in orchestra will be asked to reflect upon their practicing and playing on a frequent basis. Students who reflect often generally improve much faster than those who don’t.
  • Connecting: Music is everywhere! Students in orchestra will connect orchestra concepts to several other classes and worldwide topics. Musical concepts can be found in nearly every subject, from math to social studies to science and more!

We use standards-based grading in orchestra. Potential grades are E (exemplary), P (proficient), D (developing), and I (insufficient). We strive to help every student achieve proficiency on their instrument while in orchestra.

Key Contacts

Richard Rees