Orchestra Kicks Off School Year With Welcome Week To Begin Community-Building Efforts

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  • Symphony violinists decorate their section’s Wonderful Words box.

  • Symphony violinists Sophia Louie ’23, Hannah Lee ’24, and Yanjun Yang ’23 exchange blackout bingo sheets.

  • Philharmonic students film their infomercial video, advertising ‘Charle’ the alien. Photo courtesy of Westwood Orchestra Officers.

    Westwood Orchestra Officers
  • Symphony violists and cellists pose for a picture with their section boxes.

  • Symphony orchestra students watch as orchestra directors Mr. Joshua Thompson and Mr. Justin Anderson present the welcome slideshow and introduction videos of the 2021-2022 orchestra officers. Photo courtesy of Westwood Orchestra Officers.

    Westwood Orchestra Officers
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Over the first eight days of school, orchestra students participated in “Welcome Week,” which consisted of a series of fun activities to kick off the return to in-person school. During the past year of online instruction, many traditional social activities were either modified or canceled, causing the usual community-oriented culture of the orchestra program to be diminished. 

With around 50% of the orchestra program now consisting of freshmen and sophomores, many have never had the chance to connect with fellow orchestra members, especially upperclassmen. Thus, in an effort to reinvigorate the orchestra community and bolster new connections, Welcome Week was born. 

“The officer team was committed to developing meaningful activities that would not only encapsulate goals of growth-oriented recovery, but really to celebrate the orchestra community and the obstacles they’d overcome,” orchestra Junior Vice-President Catharine Li said. “There’s a true sense of belonging and commitment to inclusivity that is already so evident in the program music-making culture, but the idea of student empowerment and wholehearted support is truly strengthened outside of the bounds of rehearsal time. We wanted to honor camaraderie, and fundamentally, lay a solid foundation to develop the connections that we hope to foster as the year goes on.” 

Welcome Week started off with a Vogue Magazine 73 Questions style video addressing commonly asked questions about the orchestra program, in addition to a video introducing the 2021-2022 orchestra officers. It was then followed by a scavenger hunt, where students completed a set of tasks that sent them around the orchestra room, taking pictures of their finds. Some tasks involved riddles and clues, while others provided simple, straightforward directions, such as taking a selfie with your group members holding up peace signs. 

“I liked doing the scavenger hunt with my team because I was still unfamiliar with the orchestra room. Plus, [my team] also won at the end,” violinist Hannah Lee ‘24 said. 

On day two of Welcome Week, students participated in the Blackout Board activity. Bingo sheets with 24 different scenarios were distributed to each student, tasking them with finding other students that applied to each characteristic.

“I liked the blackout bingo the most, since I had opportunities to go talk to other people I might not have known before,” violist Soohyun Ahn ’24 said. “It gave me some insight on what people did beforehand and over the summer. I also did meet some upperclassmen, although I haven’t really gotten to know them [yet].” 

With students rapidly exchanging bingo sheets, finding new people to fill out each box proved successful in fostering new connections. 

“I got to meet a lot of new faces during the bingo, and I learned some interesting details as well, like someone who had slept in a bass case,” Lee said.

Using random objects found in the orchestra hall to create short infomercial videos would serve as the third group activity for the week. Students had fun showcasing their creativity, advertising products such as “rosin insoles,” the “space creator,” and Charle, the treasured inflatable alien “living” in the orchestra hall. 

“It took a long time to come up with a creative idea for the infomercial, but filming it was pretty fun,” Gloria Wu ’24 said. 

On the fourth and final day of Welcome Week, students participated in the “Wonderful Words” activity. Each section of the orchestra, categorized by instrument, was given a small cardboard box. Students came up with three goals for their sections to accomplish, and decorated their boxes. Over the course of the school year, these boxes will be used to remind students of their goals, and to exchange notes and positive remarks with other sections.

Successful in both engaging students and sparking a sense of connection, the activities brought the first full week of school to a positive close. 

“I think everyone had so much fun doing [the activities], and it was an awesome way to start the year,” junior orchestra officer Rohini Sreenivasan ’23 said. “The orchestra program has lots in store for this school year, including an improved squads program that will work towards the goal of building community, and many other opportunities for students to connect, such as the upcoming Section Posters and Movie Night social, which will be held on September 10th afterschool.”