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A lot of attention is being paid to what are called the “S.T.E.M.” subjects in public education – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Music is not on that list, and with shrinking resources, public music teachers often have to find creative ways to promote their subject.
One success story is the strings program at Northeastern School District in York County, which has been undergoing rapid growth. More and more students have been seeking to take part. The number has doubled over the past seven years.
There are a lot of factors involved. Strings specialist Donnamarie Deitz cites a strong effort at early recruitment, which includes things such as taking the string students to perform for elementary classes, so the younger students get an idea of what is possible.
One of the most recent approaches is a special student concert which focuses exclusively on the most current and popular music. The idea came from Brenda Johnson, who is the orchestra director at Northeastern School District. The music is chosen in large part by the high school students themselves, though all levels of students take part in the performance.
This year’s concert included “Let it Go” from the movie Frozen, as well as Beatles tunes and the perennial favorite, “We Will Rock You”, performed with student vocalist and electric guitars.
The “Rockin’ the Strings” concert is only in its second year, but has developed strong enthusiasm from both parents and students. A tremendous buzz around the school has brought a number of students to Brenda Johnson’s door asking how they can be involved in orchestra.
The music teachers still must deal with the financial problems and staff shortages facing almost all arts programs in public schools. The district is not wealthy, and demand for school-provided instruments is high. There is also the continuing challenge of finding time for practice with all of the days of mandated testing that must take place.
But the district is certainly finding strong interest in the program from students. And the music teachers strongly believe that the benefits from their subject will help the students develop in important ways that will help them do better in the other subjects, and in many other aspects of their lives.
Below You can hear our feature on the "Rockin' The Strings" concert:
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