Alta Sierra Orchestra Handbook

Recommended Daily Class Materials

  • Instrument (Personal, Rented, or School-Owned)

  • 3-Ring BLACK 1” Binder

  • 10-15 Sheet Protectors

  • Sound Innovations Technique Book

  • Pencil

  • Rosin

  • Korg TM-60 Tuner w/ Contact Mic

  • Kun Brand Shoulder Rest (violin/viola)

  • Rock stop (cello/bass)

  • A soft cloth to wipe instrument

  • Access to a computer or iPad with internet for submitting practice records and recording SmartMusic practice records and playing exams. (School iPads will be available for use for SmartMusic during school hours).

Performance Attire

All ASI Instrumental Music students wear red embroidered polos for our performances along with black dress pants, black socks, and black dress shoes (provided by the student).

  • Red ASI Instrumental Polo (tucked in!) - Purchased

  • Black slacks w/belt (no jeans, please!) - Provided by the student.

  • Black dress shoes & socks (no athletic shoes!) - Provided by the student.

The students will be sized for their polo in class and the polos will be ordered as a group. The polo can be used for both 7th and 8th grade, band and orchestra. Information on paying for the polo will be provided at a later time. Loaner polos will be provided in cases of financial need. 

First Week of School Checklist

Auditions & Class Placements

We have two Co-Curricular Grade Level Orchestras at Alta Sierra: 7th Grade Orchestra and 8th Grade Advanced Orchestra. Students are placed into their grade-appropriate ensemble. A minimum proficiency level is required to ensure a successful experience for all students. Students will be assessed at the beginning of the school to determine their playing ability. If a student does not meet the minimum proficiency level, potential options will be discussed with both student and parent. 

Chair Placements

Each student plays an important part in the ensemble; therefore, rotating chairs will be a regular occurrence during daily rehearsals. Students should expect to change seats (and sections for violins) often throughout the year. Chair placement auditions will occur a few different times throughout the year with rotating seating during rehearsals. The audition, along with attitude, behavior, and leadership skills, will be taken in account and used to assign specific chair placements. 

Tardy Policy

You are expected to be inside the Buchanan Bandroom by the time the tardy bell rings. You have 3 minutes from the time the bell rings to get your instrument, music etc. and be setup ready for rehearsal. If you are not ready to rehearse at three minutes after the bell, you will be marked tardy.


SmartMusic is a web-based music education platform that allows teachers to create individualized assignments for every student. Students receive immediate feedback as they practice each assignment. Their best performances are then sent back to the teacher for grading and additional guidance. SmartMusic transforms student practice from passive repetition to active learning. More information on how our program uses SmartMusic can be found here:  

Playing Tests & Written Music Theory Tests

Orchestra is a performance-based class and students will on occasion be asked to prepare for playing exams or music theory tests throughout the year. Exams are an opportunity for students to demonstrate their progress and diligent at-home practice. All materials on the exam will be covered in class and students will usually be notified well in advance of a test. Playing exams may or may not be used for chair placement. Students may be asked to perform their exam in class or submit through SmartMusic. 

Private Lessons - Strongly Recommended!

Although private lessons are not required for participation in orchestra, they are strongly recommended! Class sizes are often large and therefore do not lend time for a lot of individual attention. A weekly meeting with a private instructor is extremely beneficial in supplementing what is being learned in the classroom. Studying privately often helps students reinforce concepts, move along at a quicker pace, and learn solo repertoire that might not otherwise be learned in school. If you are interested in private lessons, please check out our website for a list of possible private teachers (

Practicing Your Instrument

How much practicing should I be doing?

Only by practicing every day can a student set up the good habits needed to master a musical instrument (or anything else for that matter!). There is no deep, dark secret or shortcut that will increase one’s ability overnight. Only many hours of diligent, focused practice and drill-like repetition will result in improvement. Just running through your music once (making lots of mistakes) is NOT practicing! Even though most students are extremely busy with homework, sports, and other outside activities, every student should be able to find at least a minimum amount of time each day to devote to practicing. The following is a guide showing how much students should be practicing in order to achieve the improvement they should be making throughout the school year: 

Practice Records

Students will submit their practice time online each week via the website ( Practice records for each week must be completed online by 12:00pm on Monday for the week immediately preceding (Monday-Sunday). 

Students who do not have access to the internet or experience computer difficulties may use an iPad or school computer to submit their practice records. Late practice records will be handled in accordance with the school’s late homework policy. 

Any individual practice time may be included on the practice record. The director will daily assign practice spots and exercises in class, along with instruction on how to practice specific sections. Students should practice their class assignments first but are also encouraged to go beyond classroom assignments during their practice time (if appropriate). This includes any material that is assigned by a private instructor or serves as enrichment. Time spent in private lessons or additional ensembles may not be included as daily practice, unless approved by the director. 

Buchanan Educational Center Instrumental Music Rules & Guidelines

In General...

  • Profanity will not be tolerated at anytime.

  • No PDA (Public Display of Affection).

  • No playing any instrument other than instruments you own or that are assigned to you. This includes colorguard and percussion equipment.

  • Show respect for all instruments, equipment, and music facilities, and other’s property.

  • Show respect to directors, staff, and fellow students.

  • Common sense should rule all of the time. If you wouldn’t do something in the presence of a director, don’t do it!

  • Cell phones are to be on silent or turned off during school hours including all performances and rehearsals and should be left in your locker/backpack/instrument case.

In the Bandroom...

  • No students allowed in the Bandroom without a director or staff member present.

  • No food, drink, or gum (except water in a spill-proof container).

  • Only students who are a member of the instrumental music program are permitted in the Bandroom.

  • No running, horseplay, or throwing anything.

  • Backpacks must be kept in your locker or on the backpack racks or shelves. They may not be on the floor at anytime.

  • Instrument cases must be kept in your locker during rehearsal or may be placed under your chair.

Internet & Social Media Etiquette...

  • Please remember that you represent our program when posting on Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media. NEVER say anything negative about another music program or a fellow student. Assume that anything you post has the potential to find its way to a director.

  • We encourage all students, staff, and parents to participate in our BEC Orchestra Facebook group.

  • DO NOT send Facebook friend requests/Facebook messages to any director or staff member. If you need to contact a director or staff member, please use the email addresses provided on the website.

  • Do not request to follow staff or directors on Instagram, Twitter, or any other social media.

Rehearsal Etiquette...

  • Come prepared to every rehearsal with your own music, instrument, and pencil.

  • Cases, backpacks, etc. should not be brought into the rehearsal space. Please keep these items in your locker or designated area. Do not leave these items on the floor.

  • Always warm up properly with good tone and technique.

  • Talking is not permitted during rehearsal.

  • Please raise your hand if you have a question and wait to be called upon.

  • You are responsible for putting your own chair and stand away after every rehearsal.

Copyrighted Video/Internet/YouTube 

  • All Buchanan Educational Center Instrumental Music Performances including concerts, festivals, or competitions are protected by U.S. Copyright Laws. Please do not audio or video record.

  • Do not share, distribute, or post videos of our performances on the internet/YouTube or by any other means at any time. We will share high quality performance videos of performances on the website.Performing with the ASI Orchestras

Performance Eligibility 

Being enrolled in an Alta Sierra Orchestra class does not guarantee participation in performances. In order to perform with the ASI Orchestra, students must demonstrate on a regular basis that they participate and behave appropriately in class and make their best effort to learn their music. Students who break class rules, or who are not able to play their music in a way that positively contributes to the group because of their poor behavior, may not be allowed to perform. If this is the case the student will receive a “0” for the assignment, and no make-up assignment will be available.

General Performance Attendance Expectations 

All performance dates should be put on the family calendar and conflicts will be reported immediately. Concerts, festivals and other performances are a group effort, therefore attendance is required. Only illness or family emergencies will be excused as long as proper communication is made. Absences for any other reason will receive a “0” in the gradebook and cannot be made up. 

Detailed itineraries for all performances will be posted on our website under ‘Events’. To receive full credit, students will be expected to arrive at the assigned report time, participate in all aspects of the performance listed on the itinerary including listening to other groups, and will not be allowed to leave early.

Concert Behavior Expectations

Concerts are an extension of the classroom and behavior will be graded as part of the performance. Orchestra students will exhibit proper concert etiquette at concerts, whether performing or being an audience member. The following rules are expected to be followed while at any performance: 

  • Talking or other distracting behavior is not permitted on stage or in the audience.

  • When in the audience, students shouldn’t leave their seat while a group is playing.

  • Phones must be off and put away. Students using a phone during a concert will lose points from their participation grade.

  • Students are expected to move from the audience to the warm-up to the stage in quiet, single-file lines. No talking is permitted as you enter or exit a performance area.

  • Students are expected to support their fellow Orchestra members appropriately. Yelling, whistling, shouting names, getting the last clap, etc. is not acceptable.

  • Students are expected to be picked up on time from performances.

Parent/Guardian/Audience Concert Behavior Expectations

We love seeing parents at our performances, just remember that all of the above concert behavior expectations apply to you and anyone in your party, too! Please refrain from talking or entering/exiting the performance area while a group is performing. Please do not video record or photograph during the performances as this may be distraction to those around you. Financial Support

As you may already know, the budget dollars provided by the state to Clovis Unified do not fully fund our orchestra programs, including the following activities or expenses: 

  • Instrument Specific Sectional Classroom Coaches

  • Some School-Owned Instruments

  • Sheet Music

  • String supplies

  • Replacement Cases

  • In-Class Technology (Sound systems, iPads)

  • …and more!

Through fundraising and voluntary contributions we will be able to offer these expanded opportunities. To continue to provide these opportunities, we must collectively raise the amounts necessary to cover our costs. In order continue to provide the above-described opportunities; the total fundraising goal for the program is $10,000. Thus, estimating that there are 100 members, fundraising goals for the ASI Orchestra program are approximately $100.00 per person. 

$10,000 / ~100 members = $100.00 per member

To assist the program in achieving its fundraising goal, we will offer fundraising opportunities for your child to participate. Information about current fundraisers is sent out in our weekly emails.

Students may assist in fundraising through one or more of the opportunities. Families are also encouraged to make a voluntary contribution to the Alta Sierra Orchestra Program, in lieu of or in addition to fundraising.

These fundraising activities are not mandatory. Your student will not be adversely affected in terms of their participation in the Program if they cannot assist in fundraising and/or making voluntary contributions to the Program. The Program’s fundraising goal is a collective one, and not on an individual student basis. As such, the larger the number of students unable or unwilling to assist, the greater the burden on those students who do meet the Program’s fundraising goal for the benefit of everyone. Based on the collective fundraising goal, if each of the members in the Program fundraises equally, the amount attributable to each student is only $100.00. 

We strongly encourage families and students to assist in fundraising activities and/or making voluntary donations to the program so that we can continue to offer these opportunities to Buchanan students. We also thank you in advance for your ongoing support of the Alta Sierra Orchestra Program. 

Donation Incentives

  • Donate $100 by Friday, September 6, 2019 and receive a free ASI Instrumental Music T-Shirt!

  • Donate $150 by Friday, September 6, 2019 and receive a free ASI Instrumental Music T-Shirt and ASI Instrumental Music Polo!

  • Donate $200 by Friday, September 6, 2019 and receive a free ASI Instrumental Music T-Shirt, ASI Instrumental Music Polo, and a ASI Instrumental Music Hoodie!

Your financial support is appreciated!How Orchestra Is Graded

Performance Participation (25% of your grade)

Being a member of the Alta Sierra Orchestra is a commitment to performing. It is expected that orchestra members will participate in all scheduled performances, which are worth 100 points each. In order to receive full participation credit, students should utilize the appropriate uniform, music, and instrument, and participate in an appropriate manner. As a member of the orchestra, students are representatives of Alta Sierra and their very best behavior is expected! If students are in doubt about an action, they shouldn’t do it! Students’ conduct should be considered a good reflection on the Alta Sierra, the ASI Instrumental Music, their families, and the community! 

Daily classroom participation (15% of your grade)

Students are expected to be on-task and prepared for class, always putting forth a high level of effort and observing appropriate rehearsal etiquette during class. Consistent improvement should be evident in class. If an instrument is forgotten, students must sit in their assigned seat and follow along with the rehearsal... not doing homework, reading, or anything else. The “classroom participation” portion of the grade is worth 10 points per week and is kept as a running total in Student Connect all month. Please refer to the chart on the next page for more specific information regarding this graded category. 

SmartMusic, Playing Tests, Written Music Theory Tests (25%)

Your SmartMusic grade is completely based on what is shown in the SmartMusic Software. Whatever percentage you have in SmartMusic is how many points you will receive in this category on Parent/Student Connect (i.e. an 80% grade in SmartMusic = 80 of 100 points in Parent/Student Connect). This is updated in Parent/Student Connect at 6-week, 12-week, and final semester grades. You can check your current SmartMusic grade by logging into your SmartMusic account. Take your grade (percentage) in SmartMusic times 100 points to determine your grade in this category in Parent/Student Connect. 

Concert Credit (15% of your grade) 

Each semester, Alta Sierra Orchestra students are expected to attend a performing arts event that they are A) not performing in and B) would not normally attend. This experience is an extension of the classroom meant to teach the importance of supporting the arts in our community. Verification of attendance is submitted online. More information about Concert Credit can be found on the website: 

At-Home Practice (20% of your grade)

All orchestra students are expected to practice their instruments outside of the classroom. Because this practice takes place at home, students must maintain an accurate record of this practice time and submit it on a weekly basis. Students will be asked about specific goals when they submit their practice record online. 

Instruments & Lockers  

School-Owned Instruments & Equipment 

CUSD provides a limited number of instruments for student use, as well as
music stands and special musician-posture chairs. All school-owned equipment must be handled with care. Students failing to take proper care of their school-owned instruments may lose the privilege of using such instruments. Instruments should NEVER be left unattended! There will be consequences for any student whose instrument is brought to us by another student, teacher, etc., whether it is found on or off school property. It is expected that any damage done to a school-owned instrument would be repaired in a timely manner at the student’s expense. Any equipment (instrument, book, music stand, music chair, etc.) that is lost, stolen, or damaged beyond repair is expected to be replaced at the student’s expense with an item of equal or greater quality and value. 

Privately Owned Instruments & Equipment 

At this level it’s appropriate that students have their own instrument. If your child has gone through orchestra in elementary school and likes orchestra enough to continue in middle school, that’s a sign that they’re ready to own their own instrument! Alta Sierra can generally provide the larger instruments like string basses and even cellos to use at school. However, violins, violas, and even cellos, should really be owned by the student.

Owning their instrument helps teach your child responsibility and gives him/her a greater sense of dedication to improving, as well as providing an incentive to take care of the instrument! I’d highly encourage parents to pursue obtaining a personal instrument, if possible. Please contact us before purchasing your own instrument or work with your private instructor so we can guide you through the process. 

Instrument Lockers…

  • Lockers will be assigned as needed.

  • You may only use a lock checked out to you from the instrumental music department. All other locks will be removed.

  • Your locker MUST be locked when you are not in the room.

  • Lockers are to be kept clean and free of clutter.

  • Food may be kept in your locker only if it is to be consumed that day and is kept in a container that will not spill.

  • Do not hang on the locker doors.

  • Do not write on or decorate your locker in any permanent fashion. Do not put anything on the outside of the locker.

  • You will be responsible for any damage to your locker.School Bus Travel & Chaperones

Travel Guidelines 

Several times during the year the orchestra will travel on buses. A 2019-20 “Participation in Voluntary Field Trip” form is to be completed online by the end of the 1st week of school and will cover all trips for the year. Students are expected to conduct themselves at the highest level of behavior on any trip. Students must travel to events and return from events on the bus, unless a “Release from Field Trip” form has been submitted prior to the event. 

While on the bus students will: 

  • Sit properly at all times, in a forward-facing position.

  • Use “inside voices” when talking with other students.

  • Not say or do anything inappropriate that would reflect poorly on the program or the school.

  • Keep the bus clear of food, drinks, and debris.

  • Keep all body parts inside the bus.

  • Use headphones (no audible speakers).

  • Remain silent when addressed by an adult on the bus.

Orchestra Parent Volunteers/Chaperones 

Our middle school orchestra does not have a booster program, but we do occasionally have need for parent volunteers. Some areas of need are fundraising coordination and chaperoning on buses. All volunteers must fill out the CUSD district volunteer form, complete a TB screening form with the school nurse, and provide a copy of your drivers’ license. Chaperones are to be treated with respect by the students and are to do everything they are asked to do (or not do!). If you ever chaperone a trip and have a problem with a student, please bring it to the attention of a director. Please contact Mr. Lack via email ( if you’re interested. I’ll also send out an email asking for chaperones or volunteers before the events when we’ll need it. Thank you in advance for your help!

Thank you for your participation in our orchestra program! 

We hope it is a fun and rewarding experience for you!