Emily Harris plays her violin during seventh-grade orchestra class at Southwood Academy of the Arts in Anderson. (Photo: Ken Ruinard/Independent Mail)
Anderson School District 2 hopes to hit all the right notes with a new strings program it will introduced next school year.
Rachael Brown of Honea Path is glad her fourth-grade daughter will be part of the strings program next year.
“She was so excited. She approached me when she heard about it and said I had to sign her up,” Brown said. “I love the music program. It gives them a good foundation.”
With a strong focus on the arts, an orchestra program has been a goal of Superintendent Richard Rosenberger’s since the beginning of the school year. It will come to fruition in August, when the fifth-grade students get to walk into their strings classes for the first time.
“It provides an incredible outlet for students, and strings is one more area, that may reach the kids, that hadn’t been tapped into yet,” Rosenberger said.
The program structure is a combination of what the district learned by looking at other successful programs, such as Southwood Academy of the Arts in city of Anderson-based Anderson School District 5, and a districtwide parent survey.
“We looked at the success at other districts and looked to see if we can model that,” Rosenberger said. “We weren’t sure if there was enough interest. So we did an exploratory search. If the interest was there, it was something we needed to pursue.”
He established a committee of district staff and teachers to research the feasibility of this program and if the district was large enough to sustain a strings program. The committee saw a strong response, with 42 students signing up, said Lana Major, director of instructional support services in District 2 and head of the committee.
Next school year, the program will only include fifth-graders who will take classes twice a week. In the near future, Major said the program is expected to expand to fourth-graders as well as sixth-grade and then up through the higher grades.
To answer questions about scheduling, recruitment, instruments and pitfalls, district officials met with Jamie Smith, principal of Southwood Academy.
“Anytime you add something new, you worry about it taking away from another program,” Smith said. “The big thing is to get the kids involved who aren’t already.”
Being a part of a group such as an orchestra not only gives them skill sets, but helps keep students involved in school so they are less likely to drop out, educators said.
“It allows them the chance to be in something bigger than themselves,” Smith said.
When fourth-grader Addie Grace Sanders came home from Wright Elementary School in District 2 one day, she put a piece of paper with detailed information about a new strings program on the refrigerator, excited to pick her own instrument.
Though her mother, Laurie Townsend-Sanders, long ago quit playing the piano, she treasures the skills learned from those childhood lessons and wants the same for her daughter.
“I am thankful I can read music,” Townsend-Sanders said. “I want her to have that skill set.”
The District 2 program is similar to District 5’s in that the classes will start in elementary school, which some parents like.
“It makes our children more well-rounded,” said Townsend-Sanders. “And if they learn it at a younger age, they are more likely to embrace it at a younger age.”
And parents are looking forward to what their children will learn.
Townsend-Sanders said she’s excited for her daughter to learn first hand that practice makes perfect, for her to learn to work as part of a team and to love music.
“I hope she gets the appreciation of classical music and instruments,” Townsend-Sanders said.
Image above: (Photo: Ken Ruinard/Independent Mail)