Course Description for Strings Classes (Music 2160 & 2260)

Mr. Johnston

2020-2021 Academic Year

Strings is a course designed to give students a foundation in the rudiments of playing one of the instruments of the orchestral string family (violin, viola, ‘cello, or upright bass).  Aside from the mechanics of playing, students will learn various rudiments of music including notation and reading, as well as listening skills.  These will be facilitated by an introduction to sight singing and instruction in the construction of major scales.  Grades will be based on attendance and punctuality, maintenance of a practice log, testing, writing assignments and work ethic.

Both students and parents should note that this course is a yearlong commitment that necessitates great diligence and supreme patience.  Music offers many important tools to the student.  Aside from the intrinsic value of learning an instrument, students will be exposed to the arts, develop a strong work ethic and a concept of short and long term goal setting.  Students will also develop problem identification and solving skills as well as time management skills.  Finally, students will develop socio-musical skills.

The long term goal for the class is to gain the proficiency and knowledge to be able to join String Orchestra, Music 2020, for the following academic year.

Attendance and Punctuality:

Each student is required to attend all classes and report to class promptly.

As we only meet three times a cycle, it is imperative that we make the most out of our time together, especially given current world circumstances.


Students will be given school instruments for the year.

Please understand that every effort will be made to give the student their first choice of instrument to learn, although this is not always possible.

If a student already owns an appropriately sized violin or a viola, we request that you use your own instrument.

Violin and viola students will be required to bring their instruments to school on the days they have class, unless otherwise instructed.

Storage will be provided for violin and viola students while their instrument is in school.

St. Francis Prep cannot assume responsibility for instruments left overnight.

We will make every effort to provide cellos and basses instruments for home use.

If we can not, students are encouraged to rent instruments for at-home practice.

Students will be responsible for the basic care of their instruments.

Cleaning the strings and body (especially the top) of the instrument with a dry rag after each use.

Loosening the bow after each use.

These simple actions greatly extend the life of the instrument and bow, and take just a few moments to do.

Students need to report any problems with their instruments to Mr. Johnston immediately, as normal wear and tear will occur, and are most often easily fixed.

Each year, students and/or parents try to fix instruments on their own.  Please do not attempt this, as more often than not, it results in greater damage and time without an instrument.

Students will be required to buy a method book and rosin, through the music department, for the class.

Violin and viola students may also wish to use a shoulder rest.

Students will need a pencil for every class.  All markings in the method book must be made in pencil.

That said, here are the Covid requirements for this class:

  1. We will practice social distancing.
  2. We will always wear masks.
  3. We will wash our hands before and after rehearsal.
  4. We will sneeze and cough into our elbows.
  5. We will NOT share:
    1. Music
    2. Music stands
    3. Pencils
    4. Supplies like rosin
    5. Instruments and bows
      1. You must put your own instrument away.   Please do not be kind and get or put away other people’s instruments.

Students will be required to maintain a practice log that includes the following:

Date, time and amount of time for each practice session.

Questions that come out of each practice session.

Hurdles encountered during practicing, and how the were overcome.

Positive comments about each practice session.

Practice logs will be checked periodically.

Students will be expected to adhere to all school rules and regulations as listed in the school calendar, including the St. Francis Preparatory School Honor Code.

Students must display proper respect at all times to their teachers, their classmates, and most importantly, display self-respect in their attitude and their work.


Students are required to practice for a minimum of one hour per day that they have an instrument available to them.

Please note, this time does not need to be consecutive.

Students should schedule regular practice times.

The bulk of a student’s practice time should be earlier in the day rather than later, as practicing a musical instrument is a physical activity.

Practicing is a good habit to have!

Students should note that that the school has individual practice rooms available to them for use during the school day.

Daily practice is vital to the student’s success.

Practicing cannot be accomplished by “cramming.”

Practicing is equivalent to daily homework in any other class, and is the primary assignment for this class.

There will be a playing exam each quarter.

This exam will be the primary assessment tool for the class.

Students will be advised of the dates and details of the exam in advance.

The fourth quarter and final exam are one and the same.

On Friday, January 15, 2020, at 7:30PM, there is a TENTATIVE performance featuring all students in beginner classes.  This will give every student learning an instrument a performance experience.

If we do have the performance, there will be after school dress rehearsals for this performance that week.  I will share details if the concert is confirmed.


To develop a strong work ethic.

To develop our level of technical skill through class work and individual practice.

To heighten our level of responsibility and respect (including self-respect, sense of accomplishment and pride).

To become more patient and thorough learners.

To reach the highest attainable level of musicianship.

To reach a level of musicianship and enthusiasm to join String Orchestra (Music 2020) next year.

To thoroughly enjoy making music with each other in our class community.

Grading Policy:

Students will be graded in the following manner each quarter:

An average of quarterly exams, the grade received for the practice journal, and a participation grade (participation, attendance, punctuality and conduct) as follows:

65% graded work

35% participation

Points will be deducted as follows:

Please refer to the school calendar for school policy on attendance.

Two (2) points off the participation grade for each absence after the first two.

Two (2) points off the participation grade for each lateness after the first one.

Automatic ten (10) points off the quarterly grade for cutting.

Final Grade:

The final grade for the course will be an average of all four quarterly grades and the average of the final exam (20% each).


Students should check the class web page via and Google Classroom page for regular updates and various resources available to them.

Students wishing to heighten their level of ability and musicianship are encouraged to study privately, outside of Prep.

Those students needing a reference for a private teacher should speak with Mr. Johnston or Dr. Corbino.


Students are encouraged to see Mr. Johnston if they feel they are having any difficulty in regard to the class.  Time will always be made to give extra help or speak with a student at mutually agreeable times.  If students are in jeopardy of failing the class, they will be notified by Mr. Johnston as well as having an academic deficiency report sent home.

Parent(s)/Guardian(s) who are concerned about their child’s performance are encouraged to speak to Mr. Johnston at Parent/Teacher interviews, by phone at (718) 423-8810 x255 or by e-mail at [email protected]

Students will be given individual time at the end of each quarter and have their grades explained to them.