Rochester Community Schools Announces Orchestra Program

Rochester Community Schools is proud to announce the initiation of a strings program, starting at the sixth-grade level, to further enhance the music curriculum within the district. Strings include the violin, viola, cello, and double bass.

“Adding new programs to the curriculum is an indication of the strong financial health of our school district. Our ability to accomplish the goals set by our strategic plan requires fiscal stewardship, which includes maintaining a balanced budget that is sustainable, promotes growth, and maintains high quality student programs,” said Superintendent Robert Shaner, Ph.D. “This is an exciting time for our district.”

A handful of students and a teach sit with string instruments ready to play.

Orchestra Demonstration

The idea of adding a strings program was first introduced when two community members provided a presentation at the Board of Education meeting.

“The strings program represents an example of how we can all work together to achieve great things for our students. Community members brought forth a proposal and patiently worked through the process to enhance our programs. We are extremely happy with the results,” said Board of Education President Sandy Fiaschetti.

In the spring 2016, the district initiated a task force to research, explore, and discuss the feasibility of having a strings program. An orchestra implementation specialist was also employed at that time to study options and produce a cost analysis and logistics report.

After much discussion, deliberation, and refinement, the work was then presented back to the Board of Education in the fall 2017. The study included the recommendation of starting a strings program at the sixth grade level, indicating that this level of education provided an opportunity for more frequent instruction and supported a strong retention rate for students.

Board of Education discussions included questions about instruments, classroom space, staffing, scheduling, curriculum development, as well as the concern about the loss of students from the band program. Opportunities for students in the seventh and eighth grades following the implementation of the strings program were also examined.

On Monday, February, 12, 2018, the Board of Education approved the initiation of the strings program within the Rochester Community School District.

“In order to introduce the string instruments to our students, we will be bringing in a small orchestra ensemble who will be conducting mini performances for students in fourth and fifth grades at each of our schools. The course description will be added to the sixth grade offerings for the 2018-19 school year. Students will then have the option to select the strings program as one of their elective courses in addition to choir and band,” said Executive Director of Secondary Education Carrie Lawler.

Additional work is needed in order to facilitate the strings program. “We also have to determine staffing requirements, and address the need for equipment and supplies,” said Lawler. “We envision that equipment will be either purchased or rented, much like our band programs. Staffing requirements will be addressed once we determine the interest from the student population.”

The continued delivery of high quality programs remains a top priority for Rochester Community Schools. “We are committed to enhancing the arts, which includes, choral, instrumental [band], and now the strings program,” said Executive Director of Elementary Education Michael Behrmann. “We are thankful for the community’s support as we work together to do great things for our students.”

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  1. Phyllis Relyea says

    Great News!!

  2. Martha Windscheif says

    Wonderful news. After starting the string program (which is still very active) in the Berkley, Michigan, District in 1969 and teaching violin for 50 years, I recently wrote to Dr. Shaner about my disappointment that there is no string program in this affluent district. I had no idea the district has been looking at the possibility since 2016. I’m all for it!

  3. Kathleen Perkins says

    I do sincerely hope that RCS will follow through with this initiative and offer strings and orchestra through the high school years. Sadly, the last time they introduced a strings program they started it in 5th grade with promises to carry through and develop a full orchestra offering by the time those kids reached high school. Unfortunately they did not keep those promises and the string students found themselves entering high school with no options to play their instruments. They had to search out and pay to join community youth orchestras. I applaud this new initiative, but I will be truly excited only when I see the first senior class graduate having been able to play for their entire time at RCS. Keep up the good intentions and turn them into reality, please! Having only band and vocal programs in a school district is like asking the art department to function with only reds and yellows in their palette.

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