Newtown Middle School Orchestras
    Mr. Crooke, Orchestra Teacher
      Office Voicemail:  215-944-2918 
     Spring Concert ~ Tuesday, May 8th, 2018 7:30pm
    Dorney Park Competition ~ Friday, June 1st, 2018 all day
    (optional but encouraged)

    NMS Orchestra  ~  Winter/Spring 2018 Missive


    Dear Parents,


        This past December many of the children in the NMS Orchestra were not prepared for the Winter Concert.  That fact makes the potential for students to have a valuable, let alone fun, experience low.  The outcome of unpreparedness translated into a bad experience for your children.  This is an observation of fact, not a judgement of any individual child. I intend to change that fact for the Spring Concert.


    I feel obligated to provide a valuable experience for children that have a genuine interest in playing music on a string instrument in a group setting FOR FREE.  I mention free because some children’s families cannot afford to provide an orchestra experience outside of the public school system such as one of the youth orchestra in the area.  Therefore, it is critical that each child becomes prepared for the Spring Concert because that is the only chance for the experience to be valuable for all. If a child is not prepared and plays poorly in the Spring Concert as a result, it is a disappointment to the child and NOT FAIR TO THE STUDENTS THAT ARE PREPARED.  As parents I hope you can appreciate that fairness.


    The orchestra will be learning and performing three songs for the Spring Concert and Dorney Park Competition.  Those songs are:

    • Brandenburg Concerto, No. 2 (First Movement-Abridged) by J.S. Bach Arranged by Merle Isaac
    • Over the Sea to Skye by Annie Macleod Arranged by Carrie Lane Gruselle
    • Engines of Resistance by Larry Clark

    This music is for strings alone.  There will be no “Full” orchestra music with wind, brass, and percussion players this Winter and Spring.  I have chosen these specific pieces because they provide music that is classical, contemporary, folk-based, and incorporate a diverse skill-set including various time signatures, key signatures, tempos, and styles.  The skill level is chosen to match a standard middle school level for students with a few years of playing experience.  Therefore, children with significant music experience outside of public school that play music on a level higher than standard middle school, will find this music more accessible that children without experience outside of school.  It is critical that those children understand that they will still derive benefit from playing the music in a group setting even though they are able to learn the music faster than others.  They cannot play in an orchestra setting in their living room at home - a group is required.  Scanned copies of the sheet music is available to download on my website at this link. https://www.crsd.org/Page/52575  If your child misplaces their sheet music you can access and print it at home. You will also find links to recordings.  It is helpful for parents and children to listen to the music they are expected to learn for the Spring Concert.  I HIGHLY encourage you to do this with your child.


        Children have the opportunity to learn the music in rehearsal during R/A period 8:15-8:45 am on Mondays and Thursdays.  There is also the opportunity to learn the music during lessons, which occur during the school day in the first two periods of the day!  These lessons DO NOT rotate like other classes. Those class periods are 8:48-9:32 am and 9:35-10:19 am.  Your child’s assigned lesson group and time is listed on the Orchestra Bulletin Board outside the band room (168) and on this website. https://www.crsd.org/Page/9957. Some of the assigned groups have been adjusted this concert cycle to meet the learning needs of the children. All the music will be covered during the first two months of the concert cycle if your child attends lessons and rehearsals.  If your child needs additional time to learn the music, please have them speak with me about getting extra help during R/A or period 2 (9:35-10:19 am) on Tuesdays.  You may also consider getting a private tutor for your child.  See this list for Council Rock Approved tutors. https://www.crsd.org/Page/52300


    Children must “pass” a Performance Assessment in order to be eligible for the spring performances.  A district-designed Performance Assessment Rubric is used as the metric.  Passing scores are a Proficient or a 3 (out of 4 possible)  on these categories in the rubric:  Note Accuracy, Rhythm Accuracy, Tempo Accuracy and Consistency, Bowing Accuracy.  Children must score a Proficient on at least three of the aforementioned categories in order to pass the assessment.   The remaining four categories are areas of more musical depth that can be achieved through more practice and experience, but will not be considered for passing the assessment.  The rubric is designed with quantitative language within each column such as all, most, some, very few, many, several, or disregard for.  Children will play a predetermined excerpt from each of the three songs for the assessment.  Click this link for navigation to the Performance Assessment Page.  You may view the rubric and find all this information there.  https://www.crsd.org/Page/52574  If your child does not pass the Performance Assessment by the concert they will not be permitted to perform with the orchestra at the concert.

    The Performance Assessment administration time period will be a two week window.  It is two weeks because students have legitimate reasons for missing their lesson, and providing two weeks will give them more opportunity to complete the assessment.  Because students have lessons only once a week, they should view one week as really one curricular day. (compare this to a math class where they have five curricular days within one week versus one). The Performance Assessments will occur March 5th-9th & March 12th-16th.  The week just prior to Spring Break, March 19th-23rd, cannot be used because as the High School Director at North I am leading an International Tour to Iceland leaving mid-week before Spring Break, and therefore am unavailable to administer assessments that complete week.

    After the Performance Assessments I will send each parent a scanned copy of their child’s assessment rubric, and tell you if they have met the criteria and are eligible to play in the Spring Concert on May 8th and attend the Dorney Park Competition on June 1st.  The month of April is the PSSA time period.  It is not educationally appropriate to administer orchestra assessments during that time.  That is why assessments are in March before Spring Break.  Another reason for the March time frame is that children will have the opportunity for remediation if they are deemed unprepared.  April 2nd-April 20th is a three-week window when children may improve on their preparation.  There will then be a “Re-Test” time frame of April 23rd-27th & April 30th-May 4th.  On May 4th I will send notification to parents if their child passes the Performance Assessment and is then eligible to play the concert.  The Spring Concert is that following week on Tuesday, May 8th.  I have designed this preparation and assessment time frame to guarantee that all children at least have the opportunity to learn the music well enough to play in the concert.


    • January 4th - music is distributed at orchestra rehearsal
    • January 4th- March 2nd - primary music learning time period
    • March 5th - March 16th - Performance Assessments
    • April 2nd - April 20th - Remediation and/or higher level musical depth
    • April 23rd-May 4th - Performance Assessments “Re-Test” and/or higher level musical depth
    • May 8th - Spring Concert!
    • May 9th - May 31st - higher level musical depth
    • June 1st - Dorney Park Competition!


    My hope for all children in the orchestra is that they derive some benefit from playing music with their peers in the public school.  It is impossible to program music that fits exactly with the needs of every individual child.  So...all that can be done is to provide an experience where children can learn and perform music that is realistic for the aggregate skills of the group.  I hope this Winter and Spring will prove worthy of that goal. Please contact me if your child is discontinuing orchestra.  It has become common for children at NMS to “quit” the music groups and not tell the directors.  If you do not tell me your child is stopping I will assume they are still on the roster for this season and your email address will continue to be on my list serve.  Also, any child in Chamber Orchestra is not exempted from completing and passing the Performance Assessment.  If a child has more experience playing their instrument and a higher aptitude for music, that does not give them the privilege of opting out.  In fact, if a child in Chamber Orchestra does not complete the assessment they will be ineligible for the Orchestra Concert, Dorney Park Competition, and the Chamber Orchestra concert on May 7th.   I HIGHLY ENCOURAGE you to contact me by email or phone if you have questions about this missive.  Please know that I have your child’s best interests in mind, and I hope to provide them with the best music education possible as their orchestra teacher.


    Mr. Crooke

    Crooke Photo