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Sixth-grader hopes to see orchestra program grow (w/video)

By Carolina Astrain
Jan. 25, 2014 at 10:05 p.m.
Updated Jan. 24, 2014 at 7:25 p.m.


IF YOU GO

• WHAT: UIL Regional Solo and Ensemble Contest

WHEN: Feb. 8

WHERE: Victoria East High School, 4103 E. Mockingbird Lane

A silver violin hangs from Angela Robles' neck, next to a Virgin Mary pendant.

She sits in the Stroman Middle School front office, thinking back to the springtime, when she first registered for orchestra as a fifth-grader at Torres Elementary School.

"My aunt and uncle play violin, so I figured I should do it, too," Angela, 12, said. "This is my first year playing the violin."

When Angela plays her stringed instrument, the world around her disappears, she said.

"I feel like I'm the only one in the room," the sixth-grader said. "I get to be myself when I play."

Angela is one of 134 Victoria school district students who are part of a growing orchestra program.

She encourages other students to join and hopes to see the program grow.

Kathy Murdock, VISD orchestra director and facilitator, said this is the first year the district has had participation at the high school level thanks to recruitment and retainment efforts made at the middle school level.

"We're working on growing from the bottom up," Murdock said.

Ken Peach, VISD fine arts director, said as the high school orchestra program grows, space will become an issue.

This year, high school orchestra students commute to Liberty Academy to take orchestra.

"There's not rehearsal space available at East or West," Peach said. "They have a band hall, a dance studio, a guitar room, but there's not an orchestra space."

At some point, future accommodations will have to be made, Peach said.

The current high school class size is made up of about 23 students, and they have about 20 students at each of the district's four middle schools, Murdock said.

Murdock and Carol Whiting, the district's other orchestra director, teach the high school orchestra class at Liberty and split the classes taught at each of the four middle schools.

With growth will come the need for a third director, Peach said.

Debbie Durham, the Victoria Symphony's education coordinator, said she hopes to see Victoria students go on to join their local symphony.

There are no Victoria natives who are members of the professional music association, Durham said.

"Right now, we only have two current symphony members that even live in Victoria," she said. "It's something that we would like to see grow and become a healthy and vital part of our community."

The Victoria Symphony has been involved with the Victoria school district orchestra program since it began in 2009, Durham said.

At first, there were classes offered to fourth-grade students, then to the fifth-grade students after school, and in 2011 and 2012, the program stretched out to the middle schools and then later to the high school level at Liberty.

"The person really behind it was Jay Lester, the former VISD Fine Arts Director," Durham said. "He was the one that said he wanted to get orchestra back in the schools."

The Victoria Symphony League offers students who can't afford their instruments financial aide, Durham said.

Once she's in high school, Angela said she hopes to participate in orchestra as well as the district's mariachi program.

So far, Angela has learned how to play "Rolling In the Deep" by Adele, along with some classical pieces as required by the Victoria school district program.

"It's my favorite song to play," Angela said. "I learned it for my sister."

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