About the High School Orchestra Program at SOA

The Charleston County School of the Arts is an arts magnet school for students in grades six through twelve. It was founded in 1995 in North Charleston, South Carolina, and it draws students from every part of Charleston County. The small high school has an enrollment of only 600 students, half of whom are in band, chorus and orchestra. Each student receives 90 minutes of daily instruction in their art area. While students are encouraged to get private instruction, private lessons are not required, nor are they part of the school’s course offering. Roughly 60% of the string students take private lessons with local professional musicians. Our mission is to provide an educational experience that produces creative, skilled, and disciplined musicians who perform superior orchestra concerts for the school and community. With the collective efforts of the students, teachers, parents and administration, we can create an orchestral experience that is enjoyable and educational for all.


The high school orchestra program averages around 80 string students per year. The School of the Arts Symphony has roughly 55 string students, plus woodwinds, brass and percussion students from the band program led by Dustin King. Dr. Selby teaches the Symphony and the younger Chamber Orchestra, in addition to three string technique class and a half credit recital class called Senior Thesis.


The SOA Symphony Strings performed at the 2019 Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago. Dr. Selby’s orchestras have performed twice at the National Adjudicators Invitational and at the 2014 and 2016 ASTA National Orchestra Festivals. In 2016, they won the top prize of Grand Champion at the NOF in Tampa, FL. Every year, Dr. Selby conducts the School of the Arts High School Symphony and Singers in an annual holiday concert to sold-out crowds at the Charleston Gaillard Center.


Program Structure

All SOA High School string majors are required to take one technique class and one ensemble class. We offer three levels of technique class—Chamber Technique, Symphony Technique and Sinfonietta—where students focus on performance skills, exercises, scales, sight reading, theory, and creativity projects that include improvisation and some arranging. In the ensemble classes—Chamber Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra—students learn orchestra music that they rehearse and perform for parents and the community in evening concerts. Chamber Technique students play in the String “Chamber Orchestra” Class. Symphony Technique and Sinfonietta students play in the Symphony Orchestra.


SOA Middle School Orchestra

The middle school orchestra at the School of the Arts is only allowed 20 students per grade level each year; the entire middle school program is capped at 60 students. Under the direction of Mrs. Susan Mears, the middle school students qualify in large numbers for Region and All-State orchestra events. After the eighth grade, students can continue on in the high school orchestra at the School of the Arts for high school or move to a different school.