DSISD to explore orchestral program

The iconic strains of holiday classics such as “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Jingle Bell Rock” fill a small room labeled “Orchestra” at Dripping Springs High.

Inside are seven students, part of a before-school orchestra club, who make their stringed instruments sing in preparation for upcoming holiday-themed events.

However, obtaining specific instruction during the school day isn’t a possibility. Band, choir and chorus groups that assist musical productions are the only related curriculum Dripping Springs ISD offers. A few local parents are trying to change that.

On Oct. 23, violin enthusiasts, including members of the Hays County-based Starlight Symphony Orchestra, addressed the Dripping Springs ISD Board of Trustees about the need for an orchestra program.

Larry Chapman, whose daughter plays violin, said that by providing an orchestra program, students who play string instruments will feel a sense of belonging and inclusiveness in the school culture.  

He said while it’s great to have attention given to students who play football or are a part of the band, it’s also important for other students to be focused on as well.

Other supporters made the argument that having a program will attract families who are seeking an orchestra program when choosing a school.

Several speakers pointed to the orchestra program in neighboring districts like Lake Travis and Austin ISD. They argued that DSISD should have one too.

Part of their argument included a performance during the board meeting.

Betsy Dewey played her violin to demonstrate the beauty and value in string instruments.

Bruce Gearing, DSISD superintendent, said Oct. 23 he would meet with the parents and review their proposal for an orchestra program.

Currently, the district’s orchestra club is offered for students at Dripping Springs High before school on Wednesdays.

Jackie Wogick, who volunteers as the violin teacher and is a professional cellist, said starting an orchestra program would strengthen and complete the current music program because the best repertoires are written for orchestra, she said.

There are also far more job and community involvement opportunities in orchestra, since there are more orchestras than community bands outside of school, she said.

She said the ideal time to begin the program would be at the third or fourth grade level. The program would then eventually feed to the high school level, but any grade level would be better than none.

Wogick said the district has their hands full with the possibility of constructing new schools to keep up with the growth. However, Wogick would like to see an orchestra program included in those plans.

Gearing said the interest over the years by parents is what started the orchestra program couple of years ago.

In developing a program, factors that will have to be looked at are what level to begin the program, the purchase of instruments, and the hiring of teachers, he said.

He said participation in the club has highs and lows and it would be important to see consistency in interest to prove that an orchestra program could be sustained.

Wogick sees it the other way around.

Wogick believes if the district offers an orchestra program as an option along chorus and band, the interest will follow.

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