In mid-May the current band/orchestra students will persent an instrument demonstration and petting zoo. 4th grade students will be able to walk around and hear/see the instruments. Interested students will be given a signup form. After the forms are returned, they will come to the band/orchestra room to try their top choices and other instruments from each of the instrument families (woodwind, brass and string).
Here is a link to the sign-up form in English, Spanish and Hmong.
There are usually many students interested in percussion (drums), but we are only allowed to have 2 percussionists per building. The only fair way to determine who will play percussion is to give a percussion assessment. The assessment includes beat keeping exercises, coordination tasks and music reading skills learned in general music class. The top 2 candidates will be offered a percussion spot.
Although piano skills are not required, they are most helpful in learning percussion. The mallet instruments are configured exactly like a piano keyboard. Piano skills will make learning mallet instruments easier.
If your child gets fidgety from standing around, then percussion is not the instrument for them. Just because your child beats on things in the house does not mean he/she will be a great drummer. (There are no drummers – they play all percussion instruments.)
The saxophone is another "high demand" instrument. A 30-40 piece band only needs 3. They are loud and having too many presents a balance problem within the ensemble. It is no fun to be constantly told to play softer or to have to rotate players between songs because the section is too big.
Since clarinet is the instrument most similar to the saxophone, this is an option for some students who wish to play sax but are not able to. When students are in middle or high school, they can add a secondary instrument (like saxophone). In this scenario the students continue with clarinet in the concert band and play saxophone in the jazz, marching or pep bands.
Without a good balance of high, medium and low sounding instruments, the quality of everybody's experience suffers. This chart shows what a balanced instrumentation looks like.
This video gives a brief (humorous) demo of some of the instruments.
In addition to instrument balance, there are also other factors that must be taken into account when fitting an instrument.
Some instruments are harder to learn in the beginning stages than others (flute, horn), while some start easier then get harder (clarinet, oboe, strings). But no matter what instrument your child plays, any instrument is going to require dedication and practice in order to be successful.
It is not uncommon for a student to try their first choice instrument and not like it after they have tried it. It is also not uncommon for a student to end up liking an instrument they never considered until after they tried it. Sometimes when a student holds an instrument, it just feels right. They gravitate toward it naturally. There is no way to predict what they will like until after they have had a chance to experience each one. The key is that no matter what instrument they end up choosing, they need to be excited about the idea of playing it. This is the first step to becoming a successful musician.