February 5, 2015     Ward Dilmore

How to Run the Arch of Bows Ceremony for Your Beginner Strings!


Before reading on, we recommend first reading January’s Blog “How to Manage Your Beginner Strings Program in January“.

The Arch of Bows! It’s been eagerly awaited as a benchmark for your beginning strings students. It’s a milestone on their path that extends through middle school and high school and will open the doors to the world.

Getting Started…

Schedule your Arch Ceremony as close to Valentine’s Day’s as possible, as early as possible during the school day. Last month, you obtained permission to use the cafeteria or gym in the elementary school for your ceremony. You also obtained permission for your high school strings players to miss a morning of classes, booked their transportation from the high school to the elementary school, notified a local restaurant that you’ll be dining there for lunch, and notified the high school cafeteria that your students will be missing lunch.

Parents of beginning strings should arrive fifteen minutes before your ceremony. Explain the significance of today’s tradition: it’s an induction into the strings family (and parents play an important role in the family). What begins today culminates in an international concert tour in high school in the future. Remind parents that each of the high school strings members who are in the room with them participated in this induction moment. Describe the adventures this moment created for these high school students.

If you have a member of your Parent Support Group present, allow them a moment to explain their role and the time and place of monthly parent meetings. Have them mention the international destinations strings parents have experienced because of the path their child has chosen.

The Performance

Line-up your high school strings members facing the line of parents, with about 15 feet separating the two groups. Call the beginning strings members to the ceremony and have each beginner stand in front of their parent facing the high school strings.

While the beginners unpack, have the high school strings perform one rousing selection—perhaps Handel’s The Entrance of the Queen of Sheba. When they’ve finished, have the beginners and high school members introduce themselves to the nearest older or younger player.

The high school students will be living music stands and will hold your beginners’ music books. Explain the process: beginners will perform as a team and, if the high school members feel they have achieved a satisfactory level of accomplishment, they will bow to the beginner student when they are finished playing. This indicates that they are now members of the strings family! (In thirty years of the Arch of Bows Ceremony, I have found that those students who did not practice and were unprepared usually opted to drop out of the program. The results yielded a select and dedicated group of new members).

Play piano to accompany your beginners in Beethoven’s Ode To Joy. Ask the high school strings members to talk briefly among themselves to determine if the beginners had achieved a satisfactory level of performance, and ask if they felt that the new members could adequately represent the USA and their state on an international concert tour when they reach high school. Play a chord on piano, and have the elder strings members bow to their new members. Expect cheers and tears.

And now, for the Arch and Awards!

For the Arch of Bows, line up the high school strings in two parallel lines, facing each other. Their bows should be raised and touching the member opposite them. Position the parents at the end of the lines, and the beginners at the head of the lines. Have a high school member call out the first name of each beginner, and as that beginner goes under the arch, their first name is chanted until they reach the end of the line.

Last month you ordered ribbons with medallions for your new members. Have the parents (or Principal or Superintendent) place a ribbon around the neck of the new member and have one parent escort the new member to a holding site for a group picture.

If your Parent Support Group sells items with your strings group logo, such as t-shirts, bumper stickers, sweat pants, pens, teddy bears (the most popular item), key chains, etc., set-up a Strings Store near the site of the group photo.

For next month’s beginner strings lesson schedule…

Change the name of the “Beginning Strings” to reflect the fact that they are now members with a new title, such as “Global Strings”, or the “International Strings Ambassadors”.

When you take your high school strings members to lunch, be sure to mention their importance as role models and that the success of the day was due in great measure to their participation.

Next month’s topic: Preparing to build the bridge to middle school strings!

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