Students who want to play an instrument in middle and high school have to get started in fifth grade.
“If you don’t start in fifth grade, it’s very hard to start,” Andrew Blumhardt, Indian Head Elementary School music teacher, said. “It’s like just starting math in fourth grade. Think of all the stuff you’ve already learned in math. Can you imagine just learning addition in fourth grade?”
To drum up excitement about band and orchestra, elementary school music teachers from around the county tour its 21 elementary schools giving demonstrations of various instruments to an audience of fourth graders.
In addition to hearing the instruments played by skilled musicians, students learn how each fits into an ensemble, they also hear how the different sounds complement each other.
The trumpet can act as a spokesman for a group. “When we want people to hear what we have to say, we use the trumpet,” Steven Moyer, music teacher at Berry, William A. Diggs and Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer elementary schools, said. The low-note playing trombone, “is very important,” Julie Adolphsen, instrumental teacher at Gale-Bailey, Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy and J.C. Parks elementary schools, said. “They are the foundation of the band.”
Students also are warned that playing an instrument isn’t a passing fancy. It is a commitment, and seeing as how a musical ensemble is often a whole greater than the sum of its parts, potential musicians must be willing to put in the time to learn how to play. “With these instruments, you really have to practice,” Blumhardt said. “It’s a lot of work,” Adolphsen added. “But it’s a lot of fun.”
Alia Adams, an Indian Head fourth grader, is leaning toward trying out the flute or trumpet. “I like the flute because it sounds really nice,” she said. Her friend Kaylin Miller likes the violin and the clarinet. “The clarinet has a beautiful tune to it,” she said. “But the violin has a strong sound that I like and it makes me happy.”
Both girls understand that starting an instrument could be a daunting task and one they would have to commit time to practice. Miller admitted to being a bit nervous, Adams less so. “I’m just going to dive in,” she said.