Elementary Strings Newsletter

May 2023

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.

Elementary String Updates and Reminders for May 2023

As we move into the last seven weeks of the school year (where did the time go?) we are getting ready for our final spring performances! These performances will take place during the school day at your musician's elementary school. The band and chorus will also be performing. Following concert week, we will continue to have instrument lessons through the end of the school year!

Below you will find information about these concerts as well as play-alongs and the music PDFs.


All City Orchestra is still meeting on Tuesdays from 4:30 - 5:30 at WMS. Students are welcome to join us even now! Our last meeting for the year will be on Tuesday, May 23rd***EDIT: WE WILL RECORD OUR SONGS AT THE LAST REHEARSAL AS OUR "PERFORMANCE" RATHER THAN HAVING AN EVENING PERFORMANCE***

We are working on two songs:

  • Open String Stomp
  • First Finger Pachelbel

We hope to perform these pieces at the grades 6 - 12 spring orchestra concert on Wednesday, May 24th at 7:00 pm at WHS.


Families are invited to attend, students should wear their WPS performing arts shirt/black top

  • Lowell West - Tuesday, June 6; 8:30 - 9:30 AM
  • Hosmer - Wednesday, June 7; 9:45 - 10:30 AM
  • Cunniff - Thursday, June 8; 9AM - 10 AM

We will be performing our spring concert page (click for pdf). If your child forgets which part they are playing, let me know! They were given this page in class, as well.



We have forwarded the current fifth-grade performing arts students to the 23/24 sixth-grade admin/guidance team. You likely won't receive schedules until August/September, but thinking ahead - if there are any errors to your child's schedule regarding orchestra participation, please reach out to me and guidance so we can help you get it figured out. A final school-day schedule for the middle school is still being determined, but we see the performing arts groups at WMS during school hours, at least every other day for 30 - 45 minutes.

Summer Playing & Instrument Rentals


Looking for ways to play this summer? Check out some of the summer camps and workshops in the area (and some far away, if that's your thing!)

Students who are renting an instrument from a vendor (like Johnson Strings, Music.& Arts, Needham Music, etc) should keep their instrument over the summer if they plan to continue playing next year. This is because you are in a rent-to-own plan and will eventually own the instrument as you pay into this program.

Students who borrow an instrument from WPS may have to return the instrument for the summer as we will want to make sure we take stock of our inventory and make any necessary repairs.

If you borrowed from WPS this year and your child is hoping to continue playing next year, we encourage you to check out the rental programs in the area if you are able. This will allow you to eventually own the instrument and step into a more intermediate-level instrument (versus student level) at a discount (thinking ahead to when your musician is no longer in school but may want to continue playing). There are also some excellent vendors from which you can purchase an instrument at a lower cost, but we do request that if you're unsure of where to purchase/which brands are good quality for the price, you reach out to us prior to spending your money on something that is suboptimal.

Rental Companies in the Area (you can also purchase from these companies):

Other places from which to purchase an instrument:

What Did We Do In Lessons This Week?

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

Schedule Changes

Schedule Changes

  • HOSMER WEDNESDAY 5th Graders will meet on Monday, May 22, 2023, instead of Wednesday, May 24, 2023 (4th grade will still meet on that Wednesday)
  • CUNNIFF 5TH GRADE students will not meet on Thursday, May 25, 2023

Something to Think About...

As our upper string (viola/violin) players start to move up into the full-size instruments, they should be looking into getting a shoulder rest. These are items that hook onto the lower bout of the instrument to help players support the instrument in their shoulder vs. with their arm and hand, allowing for more flexible motion in the wrist and fingers. You can get them for any size instrument, but they typically make adjustable sizes for 3/4 - 4/4 violins and 15 - 16" violas. All upper-string players should be using a shoulder rest by the time they get to the full-size violin (4/4) or 15" viola to help with posture and avoid back/neck pain.

I recommend Everest (pictured) or Kun (both under or very close to $30), but there are many options. Let me know if you have any questions!

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.

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.

Note Reading Game

  • Staff Wars is an interactive app-based game to help students learn how to read the notes on their staff. It is $0.99. Absolutely not required, but a fun learning tool if interested.
  • Apple devices
  • Android devices

Practice Club and All City Orchestra!

All City Orchestra: Ms. Byham

All City Orchestra is an after-school group that meets on Tuesdays from 4:25 - 5:30. We are welcoming any and all string students who'd like to participate to join us! We will perform at the WMS/WHS Spring Concert on Weds. May 24th (7pm - 8pm).

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.

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
Click Here To Sign Up!

Practice Club and All City Orchestra Sign Up Form

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.

Google Classroom

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

String Spectacular 2023

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.