Elementary Strings Newsletter

January 23 - 27

Check Out What's Happening in Watertown!

Our Watertown Fine and Performing Arts Facebook page is consistently updated with events and highlights from the school day.

Bows, Books, Binders, and Shirts!

  • 4th graders are working on earning their bow licenses. Once they are signed off by Ms. Byham or Mr. Frontz, students are ready to use their bow regularly! They can practice the bow hold and bow movements with their pencil or with the real bow (but try the bow hold about a third of the way up the bow for support) Easy ways to support them: ask them to show you/teach you their bow hold; encourage them to practice their "yes" and "no" actions (mini bow exercises) and Up Like A Rocket.

  • Students should be bringing their books, binders, and pencils to each lesson. They can leave these materials in their backpack or set them with their instrument so they don't forget.

  • If you did not have a chance to order a t-shirt in October, we have a new order form open until February 1st. Order today! HERE IS THE LINK TO ORDER

  • All classes are working on learning/reviewing Twinkle Twinkle, learning Boil Them Cabbage Down (can be found on page 24), and learning Rockin' Strings (#191 in the book, or will be handed out in class)

Upcoming Middle and High School Orchestra Concert

  • If you are interested in checking out the WMS/WHS Orchestra concert, it is coming up on Wednesday, January 25th. It will be at Watertown High School (50 Columbia Street, Watertown) and will begin at 7:00. The concert will last approximately 45 minutes and will feature all string students from grades 6 - 12.

Looking Ahead: String Spectacular: All String Students in Watertown!

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

  • The String Spectacular is our district-wide string concert, featuring all students from grades 4 - 12. It is currently scheduled (and will remain scheduled, barring anything crazy happening) for Tuesday, April 4th, 2023, beginning at 7:00 PM. This concert will be an hour or less.

  • We will likely have our dress rehearsal on Tuesday, April 4th, after school (more finite details to be communicated as we get closer!). I know some students will need help getting to WHS, and I can help coordinate some carpooling options.

Let's Go On An Adventure!

Last year, we were awarded a grant to take the 4th and 5th-grade string students to see the Boston Symphony perform a program geared toward elementary students in the area. We have been awarded a similar grant this year and are very excited to be able to provide this opportunity to the students once again. This trip is not required.

The trip details:

  • Thursday, March 30th, 8:30 am - 12 pm
  • Load bus 8:40 AM
  • Depart the school at 8:45 AM
  • Snack break and group photo at the reflection pool 9:15 - 9:45
  • Concert 10 - 11 am
  • Back to school by noon
    • This trip impacts lunchtime, but we were able to work it out with the caf last year for students who needed/missed lunches.

Currently, the trip will be around $15 per student; however, we are checking in with some organizations in the area to see if we may be able to raise more funding. One step we've taken is applying for a bus grant program through Arbella Insurance (we did receive this last year, so fingers crossed!). Official paperwork will be going home with your children soon.

We will be accepting parent volunteers for chaperones, but the process for chaperoning has changed from last year. Per HR, parent volunteers will need to complete the following:

  • Fingerprinted* (New)
  • Cori background check
  • Sign a confidentiality agreement.

On the official paperwork, there will be a QR code linking to a Google Drive folder with all of the documentation and information you'll need about chaperoning. If you have any questions about this, please reach out to both Culley Byham (macullen.byham@watertown.k12.ma.us) and HR resource Bianca Adam (bianca.adam@watertown.k12.ma.us).

If you're interested in reading more about this event, check out the Boston Symphony's info page here.



  • We are working on our bow holds in 4th grade!
  • Here is a Quiet Coyote Bow Hold video for students to reference
  • Here is a slideshow with very clear photos and directions for how to form a good bow hold
  • Once students are prepared to play their instrument with their bow, we will sign their bow license : )
Big picture
Up Like A Rocket
What Did We Do In Lessons This Week?

Click here to see what we worked on in lessons, and what you should practice!

Winter Concert S'mores

Click the links for concert performance videos:

Practice Club and All City Orchestra!

Practice Club: Mr. Frontz

Mr. Frontz leads our morning "practice club," an opportunity to practice your instrument, learn new music, and receive some individual instruction. This is not mandatory, as it is not a replacement for your regular school day lesson; however, it is a great opportunity to get some more time playing your instrument at school. Students must sign up in order to participate in this free practice club.

Hosmer students should enter through the doors leading into the cafeteria from outside. The door faces Mt. Auburn street. Students at Lowell W and Cunniff can enter through the main doors of the building.

  • Hosmer: Monday or Wednesday 7:45 - 8:15 AM in the caf (only the day of your lesson)
  • Lowell: Tuesdays 7:45 - 8:15 AM in the music room (you can join even if your regular lesson is on Fridays)
  • Cunniff: Thursdays 7:45 - 8:15 AM music practice room

All City Orchestra: Ms. Byham

All City Orchestra is an after-school group that meets on Tuesdays from 4:25 - 5:30. We meet in the Watertown Middle School auditorium. All students who are in 4th and 5th grade are welcome to join! There is no cost to be a part of this group. Sign up by clicking the button below!

Click Here To Sign Up!

Practice Club and All City Orchestra Sign Up Form

Local Symphony Performances

Being near the city we have lots of amazing orchestras performing all of the time! These groups are made up of community members; all musicians, but not all musicians in a professional sense. It's always amazing to see the Boston Symphony, but our local groups showcase how we can continue being musicians as a hobby throughout our lives, while still working in our chosen fields.
  • Check back in future newsletters! Many groups are currently on winter break.

Private Lessons/Outside of School Opportunities

If your child is really enjoying playing their instrument and wants some additional play and instruction time outside of the school day, we recommend looking to private or small group lessons.

Here is a link to private teachers in the area

You can also check out Attacca School of Music in Belmont (at the Trapelo/Bartlett intersection near CVS) or Powers Music School in Belmont (on Concord Street near Belmont Center).

Other Stuff

Practice Page

Mr. Frontz put together a really helpful practice page for our students, especially our beginners. This page is basically how we start our class each lesson. We've given a copy to each student, but in case they lose it or want to look on their computer, here are the PDFs:

Friends of Watertown Music

The Friends of Watertown Music is a parent organization that has been a major supporter of the fine arts program in Watertown for over ten years. FoWM is beginning to plan for our first MusicFest since 2019 and invites all parents who would like to help in any way. Email HelloWatertownMusic@gmail.com or call Chris Lowry at 617-923-0502 to learn more.


We recommend students play their instrument 3+ times a week for at least 10 - 15 minutes each time to build muscle memory and reinforce habits taught in lessons. You can see what we worked on in lessons and what students should be practicing by clicking the button below.

Google Classroom

Students can join our Google Classroom by logging in to their Watertown email and clicking this button.

Class Schedule

Our lessons are grouped by classroom teacher. The schedule is as follows:

  • Mondays (Hosmer) are Spillane/Thiemann, Doherty, Bellis, and Twomey's classes
  • Tuesdays (Lowell West) are Corcoran, Spatz, and Burton's classes
  • Wednesdays (Hosmer) are Mattson, Stone, O'Leary, Psychoghios/Hogan, and Gill's classes
  • Thursdays (Cunniff) are all classrooms
  • Fridays (Lowell) are Antonellis, Sudbay, and Brodeur's classes

Our lessons take place in the first part of the school day, between 8:30 and 10 AM.

Meet Your Teacher - Mr. Frontz!

I'm Mr. Frontz, and I'm happy to be co-teaching elementary school strings in Watertown this year. In the last two years, I've graduated with my Masters degree in Music Education and my Bachelor's degree in Cello Performance from Boston University. I am a cellist as well as a general strings specialist, and I worked with Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras for several years as a Cello Coach. I'm excited to teach students how to play their instruments, and hope to teach them to play songs they love as well as develop their technique.

Meet Your Teacher - Ms. Byham!

Culley Byham is one of our two string and orchestra teachers in the district. She grew up in Pennsylvania and began playing the viola in the third grade. She played in school and youth orchestras through elementary, middle, and high school before attending Penn State to study Music Education. Ms. Byham taught middle school music and orchestra in South Carolina for five years before moving to Watertown, where she is now in her tenth year of teaching music.

In addition to teaching, Ms. Byham has continued playing viola in community orchestras. She is currently a member of the Rivers Symphony and the Brookline Symphony here in the Boston area. She also enjoys taking long bike rides, walking her dog, and practicing photography.

Her absolute favorite thing about teaching string and orchestra classes is watching her students go from having no idea about the instrument, to being able to play with ease and confidence. She loves that she gets to work with the students for so long, seeing them grow and learn over the course of many years, making friends, and building community along the way.

About the Watertown Orchestra Program

Our string program in Watertown is open to all students in grades 4 - 12. Though we begin our program in the fourth grade, students can join in at any level - it's never too late! It is not necessary for students to know anything about music or playing an instrument in order to sign up, we'll teach them everything they need to know.