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Music education and music appreciation are vital elements to not only a school culture, but the greater society as a whole. Today’s adolescents are the musicians, and perhaps more importantly, the audiences, of tomorrow. Music allows a creative outlet for children, and develops teamwork, determination, problem-solving, social, and emotional skills. The Riverside Orchestra program strives to provide high-quality instruction, developing playing ability and nurturing the passion for music in all interested students.

Why Strings?

Participation in a school string instrument program enhances a child’s quality of life.  It provides creative, emotional, and social opportunities, and unifies communities. 

  • Research on brain development has shown string players’ brains are larger, have more neural pathways, and process information faster.
  • All children are capable of learning to play a string instrument, regardless of “talent” or musical background.
  • The study of music has been demonstrated to complement other areas of academic study. In a recent survey, students with at least two years of study in the arts and music had significantly higher GPAs than students who did not.
  • Music education programs enrich the whole student and are a critical component to a well-rounded academic curriculum.  Think STEAM, not STEM. Students in the arts demonstrate higher self-esteem and thinking skills than their counterparts.
  • Unlike many other instruments, string instruments come in a variety of sizes, and adapt as students grow, allowing children of all sizes and ages to participate and learn.
  • It’s fun! So much of the music in the Western culture is built upon the basis of strings; from early orchestral music, to the treasured history of composers like Mozart and Beethoven, to the string instruments often used in country, pop, and rock today.


About the Ensembles

The Riverside Orchestra program is comprised of orchestras from both Riverside Intermediate School and Riverside Junior High School, encompassing approximately 280 students in grades 6-8.  The program is highly successful, receiving several awards and consistently high scores at festivals and competitions.  The Riverside Orchestra program has earned nearly all gold ratings at ISSMA Organizational Contest, including six “With Distinction” accolades.  The RJH Philharmonic Orchestra has twice been an Indiana Music Educators Association (IMEA) demonstration ensemble, in 2011 and 2015.
Students begin their studies in sixth grade and can choose any of the four string instruments: violin, viola, cello, or bass.  The Sixth Grade Orchestra is open to all students who meet some minimum grade requirements.  Sixth Grade Orchestra meets every day during the last part of the school day. Participation in 6th grade orchestra is a year-long commitment. Students will meet in groups of like-instrumentation to learn from Mrs. Kitchell or another professional instructor. They perform two concerts each year, one in December and one in May.
There are four orchestras at the junior high level:  Chamber, Concert, Symphony and Philharmonic.  These orchestras are open to any student who has been studying for at least one year.  There is no beginning orchestra class at the junior high level.  Placement in the four orchestras is based on demonstrated ability, as well as necessary balanced instrumentation.  Orchestras meet during the school day (a class period) and perform in many concerts and events throughout the year. Performance opportunities are also available to students in the form of solo and ensemble events, special events, and Holiday Hawks.  Holiday Hawks is an invitation-only ensemble, which prepares and performs holiday music for caroling around HSE Schools and the Fishers/Indianapolis community.

About Mrs. Kitchell

Mrs. Johanna Kitchell is thrilled to be the director of the Riverside Orchestra program.  She is the 2018 Indiana ASTA Middle School Music Educator of the Year, and the 2014 recipient of the Indiana Music Educators Association Outstanding Middle School Music Educator award.  Mrs. Kitchell has guest lectured at Butler University and Ball State University, has served as a panel expert for ASTA, and has been a clinician for IMEA, traveling the state to work with other school ensembles.  She is a D’addario Educational Consultant, helping to develop and film tutorial videos for string educators.  Mrs. Kitchell served as the 2018 guest conductor for the Kentucky MEA Middle School District 7 Festival Orchestra.  Currently, Mrs. Kitchell also serves on the board of the Indiana Arts Education Network, an advocacy group promoting arts education in all schools across Indiana, as well as the board of the Indianapolis Suzuki Academy, as an education and community liaison.
Mrs. Kitchell is a native of New York, and a graduate of Butler University, where she studied cello under Dr. William Grubb.  She is very involved in the Indianapolis music community as a private string teacher, professional gig musician, and frequent concert-goer.  She was named the 2014 recipient of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s Pitz Leadership Award, which recognizes community contributions to the orchestra.  Mrs. Kitchell truly loves her time at Riverside; her passion lies in beginning string education and developing a love of music in the junior high student!