Students can begin instruction on a string instrument as early as the fourth grade in the Grand Island schools. Mary Kate Ells is the Elementary string and orchestra instructor and Matthew Ells is the secondary string and orchestra instructor.
Students receive one small group lesson once each week. In the early lessons during elementary school, the focus is on teaching/learning the basic skills: holding the instrument, good posture, keeping a steady beat, playing individually, as well as, in small groups, and note-reading. Students get the opportunity to display these beginning skills in their first concert in February.
Once students show the readiness skills, they will enter the Elementary Orchestra. This groups meets after school twice per week (one day at Kaegebein, and one day at Huth Road). Students from both buildings combine for rehearsals, then perform together. They perform a minimum of three concerts per year.
Elementary students also have opportunites to showcase their skills on an individual or small group basis. Students are featured in each building during the winter holidays. Some students are also proficient enough to perform a solo at the Erie County Solo Festival in January, or at the NYSSMA Solo festival in the spring.
By the end of fifth grade, students are ready to enter the Middle School Orchestra, which opens the door for higher levels of learning because students have rehearsals during the school day on alternating days, as well as one lesson per week.
The Middle School String Orchestras include a 6th Grade Orchestra and a 7th/8th Grade Orchestra. Students perform at least three concerts per year, and participate at a NYSSMA Major Organization Festival for a rating. The groups meet every other day during the school schedule. Students receive credit for this course. Students can also participate in All County Orchestra, Solofest, NYSSMA Solo Festivals and Spring Fling at Houghton College in the Spring.
The High School Orchestra includes Grades 9-12. Orchestra is a full time course, meeting daily. Students perform in 4-5 concerts a year, plus NYSSMA Major Organization Festival for a rating. Every other year, a performance trip to a Dixie Classic Festival is taken for a National rating. Students have the opportunity to fund raise for their trips. Students can also perform at County Solo Festivals, NYSSMA Area All State, All County Orchestra, NYSSMA Conference All State Orchestra, Spring Fling at Houghton College in the Spring, as well as, small ensembles for area events. Students can receive a Varsity Letter in Music.