Students, Families Construct Orchestra of Paper

 Ms. Levi helping

On Sunday, families, students, and teachers of the K2 class met at Conservatory Lab for an afternoon of papier-mâché and community building. Laughter and conversation gurgled throughout the room as families slathered gooey strips of newspaper onto cardboard shells of violins, violas, and cellos, each family working together to create a piece of the children’s “paper orchestra.”

Of the 24 families in the K2 class, 21 attended the building party on Sunday, and the remaining parents will be coming into school to help their children build their instruments. Eight staff members volunteered to help direct the process, mixing up the papier-mâché and guiding the families through each step. When the instruments have dried, the students will paint them, and then they will begin rehearsals that will prepare them mentally and physically for the responsibility and joy of being in a real orchestra.

The tradition of paper orchestra began in an El Sistema nucleo in Venezuela, when the program ran out of resources to supply its youngest beginner orchestra. Not wishing to cancel the class, the instructors created the instruments out of whatever materials they had, such as cardboard and paper. They discovered that an experience in paper orchestra prepared students for the challenges of instrument Bass and familyposture, rehearsal etiquette, and instrument care, allowing them to more quickly adapt to the real instruments. Conservatory Lab is among the first nucleos to bring the tradition to the United States.

“This is really fun!” one mother exclaimed, holding her son’s viola in place as he pasted a second layer of newspaper over the instrument’s fingerboard, “what a great way to help [the children] feel pride in their instruments. I’m glad to be involved.”