Music teacher Anita Hynus couldn’t stop beaming when 20 of her middle school orchestra students played Meymandi Concert Hall in Raleigh earlier this year.
For about 30 minutes before professional musicians from the North Carolina Symphony took the stage, all eyes were on the the students from Martin Middle School who filled the lobby with the sounds of Mozart and other composers.
“This is our future, and this is what our kids can do,” Hynus thought.
She said the evening is one of the highlights of her 34-year teaching career and an example of the importance of the partnership between the symphony and Wake County schools.
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The two groups have worked together since 1976 and recently won a Yale Distinguished Music Award for their efforts, one of 39 collaborations nationwide to do so.
Each will send a representative to the Yale School of Music Symposium on Music in Schools in June to learn how to further strengthen their partnership, with Hynus representing the school system.
Liz Grimes-Droessler, Wake’s senior administrator for arts education, said the workshop is a chance to bring back new ideas that can strengthen the system’s existing strings programs, with the hope of building it to include more students.
In Wake, 10 magnet elementary schools offer strings programs. At the middle and high school level, 14 non-magnet and nine magnet schools offer strings, compared with 56 that offer band instruction.
Grimes-Droessler said partnerships that help the community understand strings programs could push those numbers higher, strengthening the pipeline from elementary to high school orchestra programs.
While there are issues the school system could address, such as the cost of instruments and repairs, support for the programs also could go a long way, she said.
“We have some barriers we need to look at, but we need the community behind us, too,” Grimes-Droessler said.
Orchestra supporters last year lobbied the school board to add more strings programs to Wake schools, especially outside of magnet programs. School principals make the decision about whether their budgets can support a strings program.
Hynus teaches four levels of strings at Martin Middle, as well as guitar classes. She said the programs matter for students who pursue music and those who don’t.
“They’re not just your future players,” she said. “They’re your future supporters.”