Starting an Orchestra

Starting a program from scratch is an intimidating feat, especially when orchestra isn't your area of specialization! Only you and your music supervisor/principal/team can decide what exactly you're going to do with your new program, but here are some guiding questions and sample resources to help get you going. 

​​ Instruments​​
  • Do you have instruments? Do you need to purchase/otherwise acquire instruments?
  • If so, will you rent them to students? How will you use them?
  • If you're renting, what paperwork is needed? Is there a fee? What is the procedure?
  • For students who bring their own instruments, where will they put them?
  • What is the procedure for dropping off, storing, and picking up instruments during the school day? Weekends? Breaks?

  • Do you have music stands? Stand racks?
  • Chairs? Chair Racks?
  • Instrument racks? How will you store your instruments?

  • What level of music do you need to order? 
  • Where will you keep the music?
  • What technique book will you use?
  • Will you have a class set or will every student have their own? If a class set, what is the procedure for using the set/putting it away?

  • How will your space be organized?
  • Where will students keep their personal belongings?

Class Policies & Procedures
  • Create or adapt a handbook and syllabus.
  • What will your daily class routine consist of? What are your daily procedures?
  • How will students know what you expect?
  • What are your consequences for rule violations?
  • How do you classroom manage?
  • Can students pluck or practice while you're talking to other sections? 
  • How will students keep their instruments when they're not playing?

  • What is your uniform?
  • How will students acquire the uniform?

  • What expenses will your program incur? Registration fees, transportation fees, audition fees, t-shirts, etc?
  • Do you have a school or county budget, or both?
  • Will you fundraise? When, how?
  • Can you/will you assess a "fair share fee"? How much? Why (parents will ask, be prepared to answer)?

  • What is the area like? What do your students experience on a daily basis?
  • How is the support of the community for the orchestra? 
  • Are there any pre-existing expectations to consider?
  • Can your students afford instruments, uniforms, method books, accessories, fair share, etc?
  • Understanding your students & families is key for building a successful program, just as much as solid teaching and curriculum. When school & community work together, students are more successful.
Sample Bid Packages for Instruments
Related Reading

NAfME - Creating a Thriving Middle School Orchestra Program
Page Contributors:

Clara Knotts, master teacher & PhD candidate
David Olsen, OCPS Music Supervisor