Children’s Orchestra

September 21, 2019, 4:50 PM · My daughter has been playing violin since 4 years old and at 7 passed her grade 5 exam with distinction (uk) . She loves playing her violin and is progressing really well.
She has been playing in a children’s orchestra which she loves but she seems to be struggling to keep looking at the music. She can sight read really well so I’m just wondering if this is a common thing with children, she is 8 now.
Is there anything I can do to help her when she is practicing to keep staying focus and looking at the music.

Replies (8)

Edited: September 21, 2019, 5:37 PM · Could you explain what you mean by this?

Do you mean that her attention is drifting during orchestra rehearsals, and she stops playing the music in front of her? Or makes errors in the notes she plays in rehearsals? Fools around or chats rather than listening when the conductor is talking?

Or do you mean she is not attentive during her individual practice at home? If so, how long is each practice session and how is it structured?

Edited: September 21, 2019, 5:54 PM · Two things came to mind when reading your post.
1. one thing that IS common for ~8yr olds is to become near-sighted. I remember starting 3rd grade no longer able to read the board from the back of the room.
2. When I was having a hard time sight-reading in college, I explained to my teacher that I could only read text as fast as I could speak, and was completely unable to "read a half bar or so ahead"; he did an experiment where he put his hand on my throat(voice-box) and told me when to start sight reading the piece we were working on. He said that as soon as I started to sight read he felt my voice-box move. He added that it likely had something to do with how I was taught to read text. (he also had a degree in psychology or cognitive science besides his music degree). Anyway, in my case it may just be how my brain is wired, but there must be some documented evidence out there or my college teacher wouldn't have known to try the experiment on me.

PS I was taught to read text in catholic grade school by nuns with LOT of phonics and reading out loud(the nuns were very nice people - no kidding)

Edited: September 22, 2019, 3:54 PM · I vote for Doctor Chicago's first option. At home one can stand fairly close up to the music; in the orchestra one shares a stand with a partner and is therefor farer a way from the music, i.e. for shortsighted people reading becomes more difficult. I'd have the child looked at by an eye doctor.*

Option 2 of the doctor is not consistent with the fact that your dauhgter sight-reads well at home.

* This can also be a problem for older people who need reading glasses: I am having some trouble in orchestras and quartets even with progressive lenses.

Edited: September 22, 2019, 7:10 PM · Another problem is that students are taught they need to watch the conductor the whole time. Well how, if they're reading the music too? The answer is that you get used to sensing the conductor's gestures with your general peripheral vision while reading the notes on the page, and for those spots where it's critical to be watching (endings, fermatas, for instance) you just memorize those measures. Knowing how to "read ahead" and chug a measure or two into short-term memory is a VERY useful skill. It might be hard to learn as an adult, but kids can do it.

Something else that I find annoying about children's orchestras is that they put the youngest, weakest players in the very back where both watching and listening are vitiated by distance.

September 23, 2019, 4:49 AM · Albrecht -- regarding your final comment about progressive lenses:
I'm a performer (mainly on trumpet) and a conductor and a private music teacher and a budding violinist. A few years ago I had a new prescription, actually 3 prescriptions - Distance, Close-up reading, middle-distance for music and computers. I wanted tri-focals but I let myself be talked into progressive lenses by the optician. I had them on for an hour and was getting motion sick just by standing and looking around. I got the tri-focals I was looking for and have been very glad. I am able to read ahead in the music, things are in focus where they need to be. I can see a conductor or the members of the ensemble when I'm conducting through the distance portion of the lenses, I can read the music (either playing or conducting) through the middle distance, and the instrument I am holding when I'm playing is in focus with the close-reading portion. I don't see how musicians can function with progressive lenses, since when I tried I couldn't look ahead because that portion was out of focus unless I moved my head, which removed my attention from the notes I was playing. So perhaps getting some bifocals with your distance prescription on the top and music-reading distance for the bottom might make things easier for you. When I go to the optometrist I always bring a music stand and various pieces of music (individual parts as well as scores) to be sure to get things right.

Paul -- coming to the orchestral world after many years in the band world I was amazed and shocked to find the hierarchy of section seating to be so rigid. Far better to put a weaker player next to a stronger player on the same stand, in my opinion and experience. If the stronger players need to sit next to each other, they should be in the back so their sound washes over the weaker players and provides guidance.

Edited: September 23, 2019, 6:03 AM · My two centimes d'Euro:

Another common visual problem is astigmatism, which can affect staff lines and stems.
Or again, different degrees of myopia in each eye.
Poor lighting reduces the eyes depth of focus.

I have specific mid-range glasses for music placed at arm's length or a little more.

I too read slowly, pronouncing the words in my head!
And I tend to invert letters, and even rhythms..
I firmly believe that real dyslexia can come from sluggish eye mouvements.

September 23, 2019, 9:04 AM · After a lifetime playing in community orchestras I have come to believe that (except for the first stand) players should be seated thus: beset players on the outside of each stand and worse players on the inside of each stand. This provides a "touchstone" for the worse players and does not dampen the better players' desire to move forward.

For people whose eyes need aid for astigmatism and focus I recommend considering ZENNI.com . I don't much need visual correction for distance (the lenses inserted in my eyes during cataract surgery assure that) but I need correction for reading text and music - so I got my optometrist to measure my focal correction at 1 meter as well as the standard reading distance and I ordered a pair of progressive glasses for just that range of distance from ZENNI. The price is very reasonable. I also ordered a pair of single-focus music glasses (corrected for my prescribed (Rx) astigmatism and individual eye focal differences) from ZENNI; their price is less than most drug-store readers: $6.95 + postage - no tax because it's a medical device.

You really can't beat it.

September 25, 2019, 5:26 PM · David, unlike you I am very comfortable with progressive lenses for basically everything except reading at middle distance when only a small zone shows in focus.


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