Ted Polk Middle School



Les Sellers & Kayla Lyons 

Orchestra Directors 

Kara Miller


Table of Contents

Introduction and Contact Information

Purpose and Explanation of Orchestras

All-Region, Contests, Eligibility, and Grading System

Practicing requirements

Concert attendance, Conduct, and Private Lessons

Uniforms, Instruments, and Supplies

Supply Fee, Instrument Fee/Repair, and Fingernail Policy

Social Media


The Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District takes great pride in being able to offer Orchestra classes at Ted Polk Middle School as part of a well-rounded educational experience. Although we consider participation in instrumental music programs a right of all students, we do expect certain standards of each student enrolled in our classes: Responsibility, Dependability, Dedication, and Musical Excellence.

We work to make the Ted Polk Orchestra a safe and inclusive place for those from all backgrounds, and celebrate the visible and invisible qualities that make each person unique. These qualities include but are not limited to race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, physical capability, family background, socioeconomic status, national origin, etc. In our class, we will not tolerate the harassment of another person for any reason. Students can be certain Mrs. Lyons and Mr. Sellers will serve as supportive adults, and work to ensure that all of our students are treated fairly, justly, and inclusively.

It is our goal to produce outstanding orchestras and outstanding musicians. It is our belief that students learn more and develop better self-discipline, responsibility, knowledge, and take more pride in superior orchestras than in poor ones. To produce an outstanding orchestra requires that each student accepts certain responsibilities.

As the Polk Orchestra begins its 25th year of musical excellence, we are very excited about the musical learning and performance opportunities this year will present. We plan on making it a great experience for everyone, and a fun year to be in orchestra! We hope that each of you will feel pride in being part of the orchestra family. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us!


Here are the ways you can contact the Polk Orchestra and the directors: 

Mr. Sellers sellersl@cfbisd.edu

Mrs. Lyons: lyonska@cfbisd.edu


TPMS Orchestra Web Page:



Phone Numbers

Orchestra Office 972.968.4636

Polk Fax 972.968.4610

Polk Main 972.968.4600



The Polk Orchestra is a year-long credit course that meets regularly during the school day. It is a performance-based class, with emphasis on class performance, teamwork, and effort. The nature of this class requires the development of skills, concepts and the mastering of string playing objectives. These must also be demonstrated outside of the classroom in rehearsals and performances.

The primary objective of each student in school should be to obtain the highest quality overall education possible. Academic performance and success goes hand in hand with musical success. We take pride in knowing that orchestra students are among the highest achieving students in the school and are also among the most active in other organizations. Educational research has shown that students who are involved in extra and co-curricular activities perform at a consistently higher academic level and have higher levels of self esteem. 




Beginner Orchestra is made up of 1st year orchestra students, mostly 6th graders. All Beginner Orchestra members are invited to Beginner Orchestra social events, as well as other events throughout the school year. This ensemble will have 3 concerts, and go to a music festival in the spring.  The goals and objectives of this course will include improving musicianship, technique, motor skills and musical language and vocabulary.


This orchestra is made up entirely of 7th graders. All 7th grade Orchestra members are invited to all orchestra social events. This ensemble will perform at concerts, go to the UIL Contest in the spring, and compete at a music festival. The goals and objectives of this course will be improving ensemble playing, learning new bow styles, musicality, performance etiquette, and musical vocabulary. 

Philharmonic ORCHESTRA

This orchestra is made up entirely of 8th graders, regardless of ability level. All 8th grade Orchestra members are invited to all orchestra social events. This ensemble will perform at all concerts, go to the UIL Contest in the spring, and compete at a music festival. The goals and objectives of this course will be improving ensemble playing, learning new bow styles, musicality, performance etiquette, and musical vocabulary. 


The Symphonic Orchestra is made up of very advanced 7th and 8th graders with a desire to excel on their instrument. This is the elite performing group at Polk Middle School. This group will have sectionals before school once a week, starting promptly at 7:30 am. This group will perform throughout the community, go to the UIL Contest in the spring, compete at a music festival, and will be responsible for attending assigned before school  sectionals throughout the year. Each member of the Symphonic Orchestra will be required to audition for the All Region Orchestra. This group will be highly respected and will be asked to perform often. Individual responsibility and leadership is paramount for students at this level. The goals and objectives of this course will be advanced musicianship, ensemble playing, upper position work, leadership, excellence, dedication, and the will to succeed at anything attempted.



All Region Orchestra is a highly competitive orchestra made up of musicians from CFBISD, HEBISD, Irving ISD, and LISD selected by an audition process. To be eligible for the All Region Orchestra, a student must have passed all subjects with a grade of at least 70 during the 3-week period before the audition date. All members of the Polk Symphonic Honors Orchestra are required to audition for the All Region Orchestra.

The competition to get into the all region orchestra is extremely stiff.  Only the very best players achieve this honor. Traditionally, musicians from the Ted Polk Orchestra have done VERY well…but it wasn’t without lots of practice and effort put in by the students. There will be sectionals available to help you. We encourage you to take private lessons, come to every sectional, and to put in lots of time in a practice room.  Students who do make an All-Region Orchestra have their names put on a banner and hung on our Wall of Fame in the Orchestra room.



Contests and competitions are a big part of what we do in Orchestra. Our students set high goals for their orchestras and work incredibly hard to attain those goals. We also believe that they learn very important lessons through the strains of competing. In the spring semester, our Symphonic, 7th, and 8th grade Orchestras will perform at the state UIL Contest. The UIL Contest is a very big event in our school year. It is the orchestra equivalent to the academic classes’ STAAR test. There will be lots of intense rehearsals and sectionals in the spring semester leading up to our contest. UIL is not a competition against the other orchestras in our area. Rather, it is a competition against a standard of excellence and perfection. An Orchestra’s performance is judged by a panel of 3 judges on a scale of I (Superior) to V (Poor). All of our Orchestras, including our Beginner Orchestra, will also attend an additional music festival competition in the spring!



A simple failing grade in any class on a report card will deny you many performance and field trip privileges (you do not need to be academically eligible for concerts) Becoming academically ineligible for a contest can virtually destroy all of our hard work, both individually and as an orchestra. Students’ grades have a direct effect on every other student in their orchestra. The team work needed for a successful performance is based on the responsibility of each student to pass his/her own classes. Students who do not pass either a progress report, or report card grading period with at least a 70 in all classes, will not be able to participate in All Region auditions, UIL Contest, or any winter or spring performances we do outside of school. Please, pass your classes so you can participate in all of the super fun activities we have planned for this school year. 



A student’s grade for each grading period is calculated as follows:

Formative (25%): Daily music theory work, class performance grades, sectional attendance

Summative (75%): Playing tests, specified sectionals, concerts/performances, written tests


PRACTICING REQUIREMENT: Everyday outside of class!!!

How much time do you have to practice?

  • “I don’t have any time at all”:
    • Just take your instrument out of the case and play one note (with the bow)

    • That’s it! It takes no time at all. 

      • This is super important for developing an automatic habit of practicing that requires NO TIME and NO EFFORT but gives HUGE RESULTS.

  • "I have 5 minutes":
    • Long Bows on open strings. 

    • Long Bows on finger patterns, one finger at a time. 

    • 10 minutes:
    • Do the 5 minute warm up from above

    • Pick a piece of music you like 

      • Choose a section of the music (could be large or small depending on how long you’ve been working on it). 

      • Visualize in your mind what it will feel like to play through the notes. 

      • Dive in and play it loud and proud! Let the mistakes happen! Don’t try and stop them! Play it with feeling and emotion! No caution, no shyness, no hesitation, just play!

      • Ask yourself “how did that feel?” No judgment, just curiosity. 

      • Treat your mistakes as interesting clues that you will use as a musical detective to determine your next steps. (Practicing is like putting a fun puzzle together and your mistakes are the most helpful tools you have to use for solving the puzzle and winning the game!)

      • Repeat the steps above

  • "I have 20 minutes":
    • Do the same 10 minute process above. 

    • Pick 2 more sections of music in addition to the one above. 

    • Follow the same steps as in the 10 minute process above with each section of music you choose. 

  • "I have 30 minutes":
    • Do the same 20 minute process above

    • STOP!!! TAKE A BREAK!!!

    • Decide whether or not to keep working on the same sections of music or to move on to a different section, or a different piece of music altogether. 

  • "I have 40 minutes or more":
    • Repeat the process above but keep adding  new sections of music. 

    • This is when it gets really, really powerful… and fun!!! 😁😁😁

    • Always practice in a private area if possible. 
    • Your family may want to hear you play, but tell them that practicing is messy and you need to feel free to make lots of mistakes without fear that someone is trying to listen to you perform.

    • The goal is accuracy and beauty but the process is messy and fun!
    • Your practice area should be like a private workshop where you can take apart the machine and put it back together piece by piece.

    • Of course what you are really striving for is that your expert  level machine runs beautifully, but getting to that point is the fun part. Feel free to get down and dirty with it!

    • When you’re ready, give a real performance! 
    • This could be one or two people in a living room, a group of friends in a classroom, or in front of a large audience.

    • Just relax and dive right into it! 

    • Don’t worry about messing up in your performance. Those are just mistakes that weren’t allowed to come out in the practice room. Clear your mind and just calmly observe what happens when you perform. 

    • Performing is exhilarating and exciting! Try it sometime! 😁😁😁



Concert attendance is counted for 2 MAJOR (SUMMATIVE) GRADES: one for concert performance, the other for concert audience etiquette. Our concerts are the equivalent in Orchestra to a unit test in another class – it is the sum of all we have been working on in class.   


Doctor/dental appointments are scheduled events and can be scheduled around sectionals, rehearsals, and concerts. Therefore, we will not excuse any absences for non-emergency doctor/dental/orthodontic appointments. This also includes any appointment such as a hair salon, nail, etc… i.e. anything that can be scheduled, needs to be scheduled around orchestra events. 

School activity conflicts with concerts

Polk sporting events, Polk fine arts performances, etc. should be worked out in advance with the orchestra directors and Polk coaches. Students may only be excused from Polk Orchestra concerts because of Polk Middle School athletic/fine arts events – not activities students attend outside of school. Polk teachers are very good about working with each other in advance to avoid such conflicts, but in the case that something overlaps, please talk with the associated teachers as soon as the conflict is found so that we can help you find a suitable solution. We are very easy to work with, especially when we have advanced notice of possible conflicts. We love that our students are involved in many different activities at Polk – in fact, we encourage it! So please give us as much time as possible to help solve scheduling conflicts so that students may participate in as many activities as possible. In the rare occasion a concert must be missed (i.e. sickness or death of a relative), parents must contact the director.



The conduct of Orchestra students reflects not only on themselves, but also reflects the Orchestra as a whole, their teachers, and their school and community. The Orchestra will be following the same discipline plan as the rest of Ted Polk Middle School. We hold our students to a very high standard of behavior because we believe that our students are the best students at TPMS.  

If students fail to meet the TPMS conduct requirements, they may lose the privilege of participating in performance, field trip, and social activities with the rest of the Orchestra. 



Students who take private lessons have greater mastery of the music and material. One-on-one instruction is very beneficial and can help students achieve greater goals in orchestra. Private lessons are not really like a tutorial – they are to help a child advance faster than the class, and achieve at a higher level. The more students we have involved in private lessons, the higher our orchestras can achieve. 

Private lessons are offered during the school day. The cost of private lessons is regulated by the district at $22 a week for a weekly half-hour lesson.



Beginner Orchestra:

Beginner orchestra students will wear the Polk Orchestra t-shirt, blue jeans, and plain closed-toe shoes for their uniform. This t-shirt/jeans uniform is required at every concert and performance. The t-shirt/jeans combo is also the informal uniform used for certain performances throughout the year for the 7th and 8th graders. Flip-flops, sandals, shorts, and short skirts are NOT ALLOWED for concerts. The t-shirts are included in the orchestra fees and are also available for sale throughout the year should you have to purchase a replacement.  

7th/8th Graders (not beginners):  

You will need to purchase or acquire the following uniform items (see image below). Whichever option you pick is fine but you have to choose one or the other (not a combination of the two).  Our orchestra boosters will provide a green tie for those option #1 and a green headband for those that choose option #2. 



All instruments are to be in good playing condition at all times. Proper care and maintenance is required. Students are expected to have rosin, shoulder rests, rock stops, mutes, a method book, working strings, and a cleaning cloth. Cost for these items is included in the orchestra fees and these items will be delivered to the students by the teacher. Please check out our website for advice on purchasing an instrument. 

PLEASE: Do not buy an instrument online! 

We are happy to assist in the buying process when students are ready, but we encourage you to buy one from a reputable music store when students are entering or in 8th grade. If you do really want to buy one online let us know what you are thinking about buying first and we will help you determine if it will work in class or if it’s a complete waste of money. We don’t want anyone wasting their hard earned dollars! 


ORCHESTRA SUPPLY FEE - $50  (DUE: September 2nd)

This supply fee includes: 

Binder and Dividers

Binder stickers

Classroom Kleenex supply

Unlimited Pencils

Unlimited Rosin

Unlimited Cleaning Cloths

Orchestra earbuds

Smart Music Subscriptions

Orchestra T-Shirt

Bus Fees

THIS IS NOT A FEE TO BE IN ORCHESTRA. This money pays for things you would normally have to send money in for separately but we put it altogether for you in one spot for your convenience. We accept cash, checks made out to TPMS Orchestra, and online payments using our orchestra website. Fee balances will be sent home with students on a regular basis. Also, feel free to email/call to request information on student accounts.



This applies ONLY to students who use a school instrument as their primary instrument, and covers string and repair costs as well as a shoulder rest or cello/bass rock stop. (Any repairs due to negligence costing more than $50 will be assessed by the directors and may need to be paid by parents above and beyond the $50 maintenance fee.) This fee may be spread into $20 due September 2nd, $20 due October 7th, and $10 due November 4th.


SPECIAL TRIPS FEE – $30 to $80 (Due prior to specific event)

Throughout the year we will take special trips that will cost an additional amount. Some of these trips will be totally optional and fun, like our end of the year trip to six flags. Some of these trips will be a performance or contest festival and, just like a sports team, we will need the whole team in order to compete at a high level. 



If you rent your instrument from Music and Arts and you break a string or your instrument needs repair, you will bring the instrument to Mr. Sellers or Mrs. Lyons and we will send it to Music and Arts for you, and they will repair it for no extra charge. If you are borrowing a Ted Polk Middle School instrument and you break a string or your instrument needs repair, you will bring the instrument to Mr. Sellers or Mrs. Lyons and we will have it repaired for no extra charge.  



Playing a string instrument with long nails is exactly equivalent to trying to play soccer or football in high heels. IT JUST DOESN’T WORK! All fingernails are required to be trimmed below the fingertip line (or lower depending on the shape of the nail/fingertip). If a student shows up to a class/rehearsal/concert with long nails they will be asked to trim their nails with clippers before they are allowed to play. This is required EVERY DAY.. Failure to conform to this policy may result in loss of trip privileges, ineligibility to perform at concerts, or removal from the TPMS orchestra program. This is the same treatment an athlete would receive for refusing to wear the appropriate footwear to practices or games. Instrumental music is an ‘athletic art’ after all. It just uses a different set of muscles than most athletic activities. Keep those nails trimmed!

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