The orchestra program at Manhattan Beach Middle School offers a strong educational curriculum designed to further each child’s technique and musicianship on the violin, viola, cello or string bass.
Participating in the orchestra program at MBMS provides an immediate sense of identity and purpose as the student acclimates to a larger school setting with new schedules and routines.
MBMS string orchestra ensembles encourage and promote academic excellence, and rehearsals and performances are compatible with the students’ academic responsibilities. Orchestra members are involved in concerts, festivals, recitals and honor groups.
Orchestra students at MBMS have music class every day, translating to a more extensive and rapid musical progress. Continuing with music at MBMS allows for a successful transition into the orchestra program at Mira Costa High School, further enhancing the possibilities for college admissions and even scholarships!
There are four levels of orchestra classes available at MBMS: Cadet Orchestra (level 1), String Orchestra (level 2), Chamber Orchestra (level 3) and String Ensemble (level 4).
Students interested in joining one of the higher level orchestras are required to audition. The audition process is designed to help determine which class will best meet the needs of each student. It is important for student learning to be natural and gradual, so it is in the best interest of the student to be placed in a group that will be challenging but not frustrating.
Instrumental Music Teacher
All incoming 6th grade students currently enrolled in 5th grade strings automatically qualify and do not need to audition for this level orchestra.
The curriculum of the Cadet Orchestra class is a continuation of the curriculum that was taught in the elementary school string program and the Elementary Honor String Orchestra. The Cadet Orchestra is designed to meet the educational needs of students who took part in strings in elementary school, making the Cadet Orchestra the next natural step for student learning.
The String Orchestra harnesses the skills and experience of playing music daily from the year before. This gives the orchestra a wider variety of music to play – from classic early 17th century music to popular contemporary tunes.
A small percentage of incoming 6th Grade students may be eligible for this higher level orchestra. These are usually students who have done extensive practice and/or have had private tutoring outside of the elementary school program. Most have played in the Elementary Honor String Orchestra.
The Chamber Orchestra historically garners top ribbons at the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association (SCSBOA) Festivals. In addition, Chamber Orchestra participates in the annual Elementary Schools Tour where both the Chamber Orchestra and Symphonic Band spend one school day playing a selection of classical and modern tunes at each of the 5 elementary schools.
A very small percentage of incoming 6th Grade students may be eligible for this higher level orchestra. These are usually students who have done extensive practice and have had private tutoring outside of the elementary school program.
The String Ensemble is composed of the best performing students at Middle School. It also garners top ribbons at the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association (SCSBOA) Festivals.
Only 7th and 8th Graders are eligible to participate in this ensemble.
Before the end of the school year there are auditions for membership to all of the ensembles so as to place students appropriately in the correct classes. Students playing popular instruments may decide to switch to instruments that are not as common. This helps in the instrumentation needs of each group, and also alleviates competition to advance into the next group. Placements into the next level group are based solely on the audition. Students in Chamber Orchestra and String Ensemble who are currently 6th and 7th graders do not need to audition again, but must maintain an average of 90% in the class to remain in the group the following year.
There are two MBMS concerts per academic year - the Winter Concert in December and the Spring Concert in May. These concerts are held in the MBMS Gym. Additionally, there is an All District Orchestra Concert held in February at the Mira Costa Auditorium. Each of the orchestras perform in all these concerts and participation is mandatory.
Recitals are usually held twice a year and participation is optional. Students are encouraged to work on solos and in small ensembles to improve their musicianship and to give themselves opportunities for different musical experiences. They get to perform pieces in front of their peers, family and friends.
The Manhattan Beach Rotary Club sponsors the annual Instrumental Music Solo Competition. Top students are encouraged to participate in the competition. First place winners will get to perform for the Rotary Club, usually taking place in January.
Chamber Orchestra and String Ensemble participate in the annual Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association (SCSBOA) Festivals, which usually take place in the Spring.
Because the MBMS instrumental program is devoted to the study and performance of literature for a large group, members of the instrumental ensembles must gain the individual technique that is essential to this experience. Each musician will find that as the quality of individual playing improves, a greater body of literature is available for study and experience, thus enhancing the quality of the orchestra as well. A student who attains a high level of musical achievement in middle school often continues to play a musical instrument in high school, college and in adult life.
Although as much individual help is provided during rehearsals and sectional rehearsals as possible, each orchestra member is encouraged to study with a private teacher who is a specialist in that person’s instrument. Such a teacher is available to devote the entire lesson toward solving the problems of that individual student. The results of this kind of attention simply cannot be attained in a group situation.
MBMS owns a limited number of musical instruments. They are the larger, more expensive, and unique instruments necessary to complete a well-balanced instrumentation. Any student who checks out a school instrument must have an instrument check-out card on file with Mrs. Haslop. Students may check out school instruments but they are responsible for the instruments' care, safety, upkeep and repair, as if they were their own instruments. There is no charge for using the instruments but a donation is requested to cover the yearly maintenance expenses.
The MBMS Instrumental Music program has been fortunate to have the support of the MBMS PTA and the Manhattan Beach Education Foundation for the purchase of these instruments. Students who have been using the school instruments for a year may be asked to rent/purchase one for the next year, so as to allow new incoming students to use the school instruments.
Students may store their instruments in the instrumental music room during the school day.
Denise Haslop is in her 21st year as the Director of Instrumental Music at Manhattan Beach Middle School. In the years that she has been at the Middle School, the enrollment in the instrumental music classes has increased significantly. Her bands and orchestras have consistently earned unanimous Superior ratings at SCSBOA festivals. In 2001, the Middle School staff voted her the Manhattan Beach Rotary Club Teacher of the Year. She was also selected as the recipient of the 2002 Manhattan Beach Recreation and Youth Services Award. In the 2004-2005 year, she was selected as the Teacher of the Year for the Manhattan Beach Unified School District. In 2020, she was honoured with the Distinguished Member Award from the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association (SCSBOA).
Prior to her current position, Denise taught at Lennox Middle School in Lennox, California, for six years where she developed outstanding band and orchestra programs. She was also the district’s Teacher of the Year in 1998 and was nominated for the State Teacher of the Year that same year. Her dedication and quest for excellence earned her a nomination for the Los Angeles Music Center’s Bravo Award in 1998.
Denise graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in Music Education from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1992. She also earned a Master’s in Education degree from UCLA in 1993. Denise has been the recipient of several scholarships, including the Jacqueline Fisher Klein Memorial Award in 1992 and the American Youth Symphony Award in 1991.
Having now taught for twenty-six years, she believes that with sequential teaching based on fundamentals, middle school students are capable of playing challenging music and performing musically. Her advanced band and orchestra were selected to perform at the California Music Educators Association annual conference in 2002. The following year, they were invited as the only California middle school to participate in the National Festival of the States in Washington, D.C. She has since then co-presented workshops on string teaching, and guest conducted local honor orchestras.