Orchestra Handbook

Dear Parents, Guardians, and Students,

Welcome to a new and exciting year of music at Vista Heights! I trust you had an enjoyable summer and are looking forward to the upcoming school year. I take this opportunity to introduce myself and invite you to join me in engaging these great students in the excellent education they will be provided.

Enclosed you will find course descriptions, policies, procedures, and other important information regarding the Vista Heights Middle School Orchestras. Please take time to read this material, as the success of our orchestras depends upon each individual working toward the same goals.

Middle school is the paramount time to learn the important techniques and habits that will make a great performer. All of our ensembles are important to the instrumental music program, and every one has a special role in the school, as well as the community. Each student is vital as without all of us, none of us can perform to our highest level! Students will become prepared to enter the high school arena through their participation in the Vista Heights Middle School Orchestras.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at school: (801) 610-8770 ext.127, or email abraithwaite@alpinedistrict.org.


Ashley Braithwaite, Director of Orchestras

Vista Heights Middle School is an equal opportunity school. It does not discriminate in provision of services due to race, color, religion or nation of origin.

Classroom Expectations:

As members of this performing ensemble, students are expected to set an outstanding example of student behavior in and outside of rehearsal. The following rules will be observed at all times in the classroom:

  • Absolutely NO food or drink (with the exception of water) will be allowed in the rehearsal room.

Gum is strictly forbidden!!!

  • Students will come prepared to class, with all of their equipment (see below), and with an appropriate attitude.
  • Cell phones are allowed only as a learning tool, i.e. calculator, metronome, or tuner. Phones are not allowed to be kept on stands or in laps during rehearsal. If the phone is a nuisance, it will be confiscated and not returned until after school. Persistent confiscation of phones will be brought to the attention of parents, and a plan put in place to end this behavior.
Students will actively and positively participate in rehearsal at all times. Talking and questions will be limited to that which is applicable to the rehearsal.
  • Students will have respect and courtesy for themselves, for their classmates, for the instructor, and for all personal and school equipment.
  • Students will work hard to improve themselves musically while having fun!
  • All school rules and dress code policies will be enforced in the music classroom.


Responsibilities and Consequences:

It is anticipated that members of this ensemble have honed their self-discipline skills through the course of their previous string experience. It is the director’s philosophy that the only true discipline is SELF discipline. As the students show good behavior, rewards shall follow. As students show poor behavior, the consequences shall be as follows:

  •       First offense: Verbal Reprimand.
  •       Second offense: Loss of participation points.
  •       Third offense: Lunch detention.
  •       Fourth offense: Parent correspondence.
  •       Fifth offense: Parent/teacher/student conference.
  •       Sixth/Severe offense: Administrator involvement/expulsion from ensemble. 

Again, it is expected that students participating in Orchestra know what is expected of them and actively engage in performing to that standard.


Students are required to bring the following items to class daily (all are open to inspection at any time):

Instrument and bow in working condition (Case must have an ID tag with student’s name on it!)

Shoulder rest (violins and violas)

Cello Strap (cellos)

Rock Stop ( basses)

(I recommend Gustave Bernardel for violins, violas, and cellos, and Pops for basses)

Cleaning Cloth (old t-shirts work great)

Pencil (Absolutely NO PENS!!!) Yes, you need one in class with you EVERY DAY….

Music  (Supplied by Mrs. Braithwaite)

1.5”-2” Binder (any color) SPECIFICALLY for Orchestra


It is very important to understand that most of the grades assessed in this course are directly determined by the students- including participation and evaluation. Grades are determined based on the amount of points earned from playing tests, written assignments, quizzes, practice logs, class participation, and performing in concerts and festivals. 
In-class playing tests and quizzes may be retaken.

***If a student refuses to attempt the test in class on the day it is due (without prior discussion with Mrs. Braithwaite) they will receive only ONE opportunity to take that test within the next week, or they will receive a 0 for the test.***

Orchestra grades are given in full letters as follows:

90-100% = A

80-89% = B

70-79% = C

60-69% = D

<59% = F


All students will begin the quarter with an “S” (Satisfactory) in Citizenship. Performance beyond the call of duty will be rewarded with an “O” as observed by Mrs. Braithwaite. Students with excessive tardies, or poor behavior or attitude will incur lower citizenship grades.

The “I Forgot” Policy:

Students are expected to have their instruments with them at all rehearsals. If a student does not bring their instrument, they will lose their participation points for that day and will be required to write an essay, due at the end of class. If a student continually forgets their instrument, an email or phone call will be sent home to parents. If a student’s instrument is in for repairs, they must bring a note from a parent and sit in their seat and finger along.


Attendance and performance at concerts is MANDATORY and carries the heaviest weight on your grade! If you find that you have an unavoidable conflict, you must notify Mrs. Braithwaite at least TWO WEEKS in advance! Mrs. Braithwaite will work with students in emergency situations, but those situations are rare. If the student knew about the conflict more than two weeks in advance, but failed to present it in writing to Mrs. Braithwaite, the student will NOT be excused.

Concert Attire:

All Orchestra members (except Symphonic Orchestra) are required to wear CONCERT BLACK for concerts.

Girls: Nice BLACK dress, dress pants, or skirt, with a BLACK blouse/nice top (no t-shirts). Skirts or dresses are required to be MID-CALF length or longer! Dress shoes (please NO flip flops or athletic shoes).

Boys: BLACK Dress shirt, BLACK dress pants, BLACK socks, and BLACK dress shoes (NO flip flops or athletic shoes).

Symphonic Orchestra will have uniforms to perform in ($15 rental fee per semester). In addition to the uniform, Symphonic students will need the following:

Girls: BLACK dress shoes, BLACK tights/stockings.

Boys: BLACK socks and dress shoes, BLACK dress pants, WHITE dress shirt.

***PLEASE get this attire early so that you do not have to rush the day before the concert to get it!

Classroom Maintenance:

Lockers are available for student use. Due to the lack of orchestra lockers, you will be required to share a locker with other student(s). Although Mrs. Braithwaite is careful to lock the orchestra and storage rooms, the school is not responsible for lost or stolen items. Please lock up your instrument!

Students discovered breaking or abusing orchestra room lockers or other equipment will be fined. Please do not play any instruments that do not belong to you; this includes school instruments. Continued violation of this policy will be considered to be destruction of school equipment and will be dealt with accordingly.


As members of the Vista Heights Orchestra, students may have opportunity to travel throughout Utah and Salt Lake counties. Students are expected to be on their best behavior, knowing that they represent themselves, their school, and their community at all times. Parents are invited to join the orchestra on these outings whenever possible.


Parents can track their student’s progress, view assignments, calendars and events, and review handbook items online at www.vhmsorchestra.com. Additionally, we will be utilizing an online classroom through Google.

Pedagogical Touch:

Often the best way for a teacher to correct a student’s technique is to touch areas on the hands, arms, and shoulders to help students form the correct posture and/or hand position. Please be aware of this, and that at all times touch will be pedagogical and professional.


Rental Instruments:

The school has violas, cellos, and basses available to rent for a minimal fee. If interested, please contact Mrs. Braithwaite for a rental form, and pay fees in the office. Instruments will be rented based on availability on a first-come basis. Violin students must rent or purchase an instrument of their own.


If you would like to show appreciation for the VHMS Orchestra program, please donate to the Alpine School District Foundation account for our class. The funds donated to this account will be used in your classroom this year for things like rosin, strings, music, programs, and other essential classroom needs. I would also encourage you to donate to the foundation in lieu of any teacher appreciation gifts. You can donate via paypal at foundation.alpineschools.org or you may come to the finance office and make your contributions there, making sure you enter “VHMS Orchestra” in the “purpose” box. Thank you!