Silver Creek Orchestra

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How do I join one of the orchestras?
Anyone can register for Concert Orchestra without auditioning. However, if you've been playing your instrument for less than a year, it is strongly recommended that you take private lessons so that you stay caught up with the pace of the orchestra. If you aren't sure whether Concert Orchestra is right for you, talk to Mr. Trapkus. Symphonic Orchestra plays more advanced repertoire and requires an audition. 8th graders from Altona, Westview, and Sunset will receive audition materials from their orchestra teachers typically in January, and they have two weeks to prepare the music. Small Ensembles also requires an audition and is the most advanced orchestra class. Current Silver Creek students are placed in Symphonic Orchestra and/or Small Ensembles based on their playing tests and preparation in class.

How does the seating work? Are there chair auditions?
The orchestras at Silver Creek are as non-competitive as possible, based on the belief that people achieve the most when they don't compare themselves to others. This belief is strongly supported by psychological research on motivation and studies like this one.Section leader positions are rotated among the students with the strongest performance in playing tests. Players within the section are mixed and rotated such that no one student gets stuck in the back of the section. This rotation system is common in professional, amateur, and student orchestras.

Can I request that we play a certain piece of music?
Absolutely! Just tell Mr. Trapkus. Even if the music isn't available for orchestra, sometimes Mr. Trapkus or a student can arrange it.

What kind of trips does the orchestra go on?
Orchestra, band, and choir students usually go on a trip each year to perform at an adjudicated festival. Larger trips like New York, Orlando, and Los Angeles alternate every other year with in-state trips like Grand Junction and Estes Park. Symphonic Orchestra is invited on these trips, but often slots will open up to Concert Orchestra members as well. Sometimes, smaller trips are offered to all orchestra students, like Colorado Symphony trips.

What honor orchestras can I audition for?
There are four main honor orchestras that Silver Creek students typically audition for, especially those in Symphonic Orchestra. St. Vrain Honor Orchestra brings together advanced high school orchestra students from throughout the district, and Combined League Honor Orchestra includes students from nearby areas of Colorado. The most advanced honor orchestras are Western States Honor Orchestra and All State Orchestra. Interested students can obtain audition materials from Mr. Trapkus at the beginning of the school year, but students interested in Western States or All State should begin preparing as soon as materials are available in May.

What youth orchestras can I audition for?
There are three main youth orchestras that Silver Creek students typically audition for. All Symphonic Orchestra students interested in more orchestra experience should consider auditioning for theLongmont Youth Symphony.Another youth orchestra program for more advanced players is the Greater Boulder Youth Orchestras. The most advanced youth orchestra in the area is the Denver Young Artists Orchestra.

How do I join Fiddle Group?
Currently, no audition or fee is required for joining Fiddle Group at the beginning of the school year, aside from purchasing a shirt and bringing food once each semester. Just show up to the weekly rehearsals, currently Thursdays 5:00-6:30. However, if you don't have music memorized in time for a performance, you may not be allowed to perform with the group. It's much better to join the group in August or September. If you join later than that, you may be asked to memorize music to get caught up and audition on that music from memory.

Can I watch the listening videos from class online?
Yes, you can see most of them on YouTube if you click here.


Instrument Maintenance

How often should strings be changed?
As a general rule, you should replace your strings at least once a year. If you practice at home most days, you may want to replace them every six months. If you practice two hours a day or more, you may want to replace them every 3-4 months. Replace strings one at a time and watch the bridge to make sure it stays perpendicular to the body of the instrument. When strings are left on an instrument for too long, they can sound dull, go false (making it impossible to play in tune), and start to unravel.

How often should I rehair my bow?
If you've lost a lot of hairs from your bow, or the hairs look dirty and rosin doesn't seem to stick well anymore, it's probably time to get it rehaired. If you don't practice much, this could be once every 2 or 3 years. If you practice a lot, it could be closer to once a year or once every 6 months.

How should I clean my instrument?
The best way to clean your instrument is to wipe it with a clean, dry cloth every time you're done playing. Keep a few cloths in your case (cutting up an old t-shirt works well) and wash them with your laundry every couple weeks.

Where can I get strings and other instrument supplies?
You can find strings and other basic equipment for your instrument at local music stores like Guitars Etc (303-776-8388) or Miller Music (303-772-8500). If you practice regularly, you may want to experiment with a wider variety of strings, which you could order through Shar Music (

Who should I contact if I notice a problem with my instrument?
Some problems are very easy to fix, so you may want to show Mr. Trapkus first. Otherwise, contact Ben Davis ( James Connell (


SCOPA & Supporting the Orchestra Program

What is SCOPA?
SCOPA (Silver Creek Organization for the Performing Arts) is the parent booster organization for the orchestra, band, choir, drama, and speech/debate programs at Silver Creek High School. The vast majority of the funding for these programs comes from money raised through SCOPA. All parents of students in these programs are encouraged to attend the monthly SCOPA meetings to hear about our programs and how to help.

How can I help the orchestra program?
There are many ways to help! If you're interested in chaperoning for the orchestra party or a field trip, helping out on a Madrigal work day, or volunteering at a Bingo session, let Mr. Trapkus know. You may also receive emails asking for help in these areas. You are also encouraged to attend the monthly SCOPA meetings to learn more about the performing arts programs and find more ways to help.

What's an easy way for me to help raise money for the orchestras?
The easiest way is probably to request a King Soopers or Safeway reloadable gift card from Mr. Trapkus. Every time you load money onto the card, King Soopers or Safeway donates 5% of that amount to the Silver Creek orchestra program. This costs you nothing, and you can request as many cards as you want for family and friends. This has been a very successful fundraiser so far. Students and parents can also volunteer at the Bingo sessions hosted by SCOPA. Contact Laura Ewing for more information on the Bingo sessions (


Private Lessons

Should I take private lessons?
If you enjoy playing your instrument, want to get better at it, and have some time to practice every day or most days, then you should definitely consider taking private lessons. If you're considering auditioning for Western States Honor Orchestra or All State Orchestra, you should strongly consider private lessons, as it's extremely rare to be accepted into either orchestra without taking private lessons. Taking lessons allows you to work more on solo music and gives you a much clearer idea of how to improve your playing than you would get in an orchestra setting. Many problems are much more easily identified and addressed in one-on-one lessons than in orchestra rehearsals. If you only practice once or twice a week, then lessons are not recommended. The feedback you receive in lessons is usually only useful if you practice it regularly at home.

How do I find a private lesson teacher?
Mr. Trapkus can give you a list of teachers for your instrument in the area. You may want to schedule a lesson with a few teachers and then see which teacher you like working with the most before you commit to studying with one teacher. When calling or emailing to schedule the lesson, be sure to ask how much they charge.

How much do private lessons usually cost?
Expect to pay around $20-$30 per half-hour lesson, or about twice that for an hour lesson. Normally, you'll have one lesson per week. Half-hour lessons are recommended if you're just starting lessons, and hour lessons are recommended if you practice daily and are considering majoring in music.



How much should I be practicing at home?
At a bare minimum, you should practice as much as you need to so that you aren't struggling with notes and rhythms in orchestra rehearsals. You should be able to play through each piece of orchestra music without stopping to check notes. Playing in an orchestra becomes much more fun when you can focus on making music in a group rather than fixing the notes you're missing. It can be hard just to start practicing, so try leaving your instrument out of its case at home (in a safe place) and have your music already on the stand with a pencil. As you're practicing, make the most of it so that you aren't spending more time than you need to. Write in fingerings or notes to yourself when you find something that works, and if you don't have a lot of time, just focus on the few most challenging parts. Even if you're extremely busy, you can still make a lot of progress with short practice sessions, and you'll find this helps you be more productive with other things. For example, try coming up with just one goal in your orchestra music, like playing a challenging section with a clean sound or with vibrato on every note. Then set a timer for 10 minutes and do whatever you can to reach that goal. You'll be surprised how much you can accomplish with a clearly defined goal and a time limit. Here's an interesting article about practicing.

What's the best way to practice?
How you practice is much more important than how much you practice, especially if you're busy. Since practicing is basically “repairing” sounds, you’ll want to balance big-picture work with detail work. Think “whole-part-whole.” WHOLE Play through a piece or a large section, trying not to stop, and listen carefully for problems with tone, intonation, and rhythm. PART Go back and isolate each problem, starting with the bigger problems. The trick here is to be patient but persistent. Some problems might take days to fix.* Once a problem seems fixed, test it out by putting it back into context. Play the music before the problem and get into it. If necessary, keep tweaking the problem spot until you are satisfied. Many people stop here, but it’s crucial now that you play each section the right way several times so that your muscles and ears remember it. If you only play it once the right way, tomorrow your muscles will still be used to the wrong way! WHOLE Play through the piece or large section again, trying not to stop. Keep doing play-throughs until you discover new ways to improve and other parts to repair. *Fixing problems: Rather than simply playing the same thing over and over, stop and switch to detail mode. Identify the problem and focus in on it. If it’s intonation, play just one note at a time, very slowly, adjusting the pitch as necessary. If it’s tone, ignore the left hand and experiment with bow speed, arm weight, and contact point. If it’s rhythm, slow it down, and maybe try it on just one pitch.