Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What does my student need for orchestra class?
A: Students need a well-maintained instrument for class and home practice. A well-maintained instrument is one that produces a clear and resonant tone and is appropriately sized to the individual student (correct chin rest and shoulder rest for violin/viola, end pin height for cello/bass). Instruments need their strings changed occasionally, depending on how many hours students spend per day practicing.
Q: Should we be renting or buying an instrument… and where?
Renting an instrument is always a great option, but purchasing an instrument is also a great consideration for high-school aged students (the exception may be for bass players, which some may continue to play on a half or three-quarter size double bass). There are dozens of music shops that rent instruments, and we lucky enough to have a few luthiers (professional, trained violin makers) on the Eastside that both rent and sell instruments. We have a limited supply of instruments at Bellevue High for students, so we ask families to rent or purchase instruments from local shops and luthiers if possible.
Q: My student is an incoming 9th grader and has several years of experience. Are they still required to take Concert Orchestra?
A: Yes! The Concert Orchestra program is specifically designed to welcome incoming 9th graders and to Bellevue High School at-large. The transition from middle school to high school is already challenging enough that many students inevitably find it helpful to be in a class with peers that they share other classes with. If you ask any graduating orchestra senior they'll tell you that taking Concert Orchestra was a formative experience, and it is often a reflection point for them before they move onto college or post-high school life.
Q: Do I have to pay to be a part of the Orchestra Boosters Club?
A: No, the Orchestra Boosters Club exists to strategize and act on fundraising efforts to benefit the program. Parents in the Booster Club volunteer their time and skills to communicate with other parents, facilitate the Annual Lei Sale, manage our website content, and volunteer in-person when needed (chaperoning, door greeter at concerts, etc.)
HOW TO BUY AN INSTRUMENT
We strongly advise against buying an instrument online if it's from a "big box retailer". There are a few online music retailers that have luthiers and specialists on staff that you can call directly for help. However, while you may find a comfortable price point with these businesses, instrument repairs may be more expensive because work must be done locally by a shop.
As Henry Bischofberger of Henry Bischofberger Violins of Kirkland says, "Please be aware of the instrument teachers call the VSO or Violin Shaped Object! They look shiny, and have well written descriptions, but they do not work, will not stay in tune, have parts that easily break, hurt to play, and of course sound really bad. We see these instruments every day in the shop. Students and teachers are frustrated with the instrument and ask Henry to fix it. There is no way to fix it and any effort to do so would cost many hundreds of dollars more than the violin is worth!"
If you find an instrument online or elsewhere you can make an appointment online to bring it in for a complimentary verbal appraisal.