The RHS Orchestra Class: What Is It?

Nathan Rommel, Staff Writer

What is orchestra? “Orchestra is a small ensemble of musicians playing primarily string instruments. That’s violin, viola, cello, and bass,” said Nicolas Yale, teacher of the orchestra group within RHS. This is how he defines orchestra.
The room 126 contains the RHS’s Orchestra class. It is one of the few music classes available within RHS. Mr.Yale has taught the RHS Orchestra group since August of year 2019. However Mr.Yale has been teaching orchestra for five years before coming here.
The Renton Arrow contacted Mr.Yale for an interview. One point that Mr. Yale talked about in the interview was how orchestra groups were known to play classical pieces for most performances. “…but as a high school orchestra teacher, I like to branch out a little bit, so the students have a chance to experience other genres as well,” said Mr.Yale. He agrees with the concept that the student should have a creative idea of what can be seen within an orchestra performance.

Orchestra is a small ensemble of musicians playing primarily string instruments. That’s violin, viola, cello, and bass”

— Nicholas Yale

Whatever music is played, preparation is a key part within the class. Sources describe the daily routine this group go through. Monday through Thursday, the class enter the room and begin setting up their instruments. According to Mr.Yale, some students have their own instruments and other students use school instruments.
With the instruments set up, they then tune the instruments so they sound well together. The students tune by turning the pegs holding the strings of the instrument. This increases or decreases the pitch, how high a note is, of a string.
After the class finish tuning, the class begins practicing playing their instruments by playing scales and other techniques of practice. A scale is a group of eight notes that grow higher in pitch when played together.
When the class is ready to play, the class proceeds by practicing their group of musical pieces. Musicians refer to this group of pieces as repertoires. What the class does in this practice depends on how well the class plays the piece. If the class knows the piece, the class focuses on the specific elements of the piece; Musical elements include articulation, how precise a note is, and dynamic, how loud a note is.
This practice continues until near the end of the class, when the class ends early in order to put away the equipment for storage.
On Friday, the class learns about other aspects of music. Students learn about subjects such as music theory or music history. Music theory talks about important terms and how musicians understand music in writing. Music history talk about the history of music.
Despite what the school has listed on the school website, the Orchestra class does not have a club in which the class practices in afterschool. Mr.Yale said he has not been here long enough to establish an official club. However, Mr.Yale does have a group of five students that meet after school. During their meetings, they practice advanced techniques within orchestra music. The majority of the orchestra students only practice during class time and individual time.

“Its kinda a combination concert. Every music ensemble in the building prepares two or three pieces and performs them”

— Nicholas Yale

The students practice for one sole reason. This reason being the varying amount of concerts the Orchestra class attends to. Each trimester, the Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center holds a seasonal concert. The first trimester concert of year 2019 goes by the name of the Fall Concert; “Its kinda a combination concert. Every music ensemble in the building prepares two or three pieces and performs them,” said Mr.Yale. As one of the music ensembles within the building, the orchestra group prepares their own songs to perform on the stage. Their picked songs are called “Adagio For Strings” and “If I Were a Rich Man”.
Mr.Yale himself thinks orchestra benefits its students because of the students attendance to these events. Mr.Yale thinks that the students benefits by learning music. He also said the following, “Orchestra students are very tight and in group. We all know each other, work well together, and it creates a nice sense of community within a school”. He talks about how the students often see each other outside of school time during out of school events. Said Mr.Yale, “It’s good for these kids to have these experiences”.
How do the students enjoy these experiences? “It’s fun. I enjoy it a lot,” said Elijah Corney, a student within the orchestra group. He plays the double bass. The instrument is known for its deep pitch and large size. When asked about why he enjoyed the class, he said, “I just like playing music”.

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Michelle Sanchez, one of the violin players, enjoys the class as well. “…It’s really interactive,” said Michelle, “Mr.[Yale] is just really good with the students. He takes the time to actually work and practice with different groups”.
The students need this practice because there are high tension about the Fall concert. The songs that the group played was performed with focused faces. The second piece was played quickly, but it was loved by the audience. As the audience gave applauds for the group’s second song, all members of the Orchestra class stood up for the last concert of the trimester.

*This information has been updated up to the date of November 26, 2019.