Unless you’re a student in one of Wake County’s gifted and talented themed magnet schools, the odds are you’re not going to be able to perform in a school orchestra.
As noted in today’s article, the school district says seven of Wake’s 104 elementary schools, 15 of the 33 middle schools and 13 of the 27 high schools have strings programs/orchestras. All seven elementary schools, five of the middle schools and one of the high schools is a GT magnet.
School officials say there’s no moratorium or policy preventing non-magnet schools from having strings programs.
“Decisions about strings programs in Wake County Public School System are a school-based decision,” according to a district statement. “School administrators gauge whether there is student interest for orchestra and if it fits into the school’s community. Is there student interest? Is there space in the building? Is there staffing allotment available? Does it fit the school’s culture?”
But the fact that the GT magnets have strings programs that create a K-12 feeder pathway does give those students a leg up in terms of being to stay in orchestra.
Here’s the district’s list of schools with strings/orchestra programs:
Elementary Schools: Fuller GT Magnet, Hunter GT Magnet, Poe GT Magnet, Powell GT Magnet, Underwood GT Magnet, Washington GT Magnet and Zebulon GT Magnet.
Middle Schools: Carnage GT Magnet, Ligon GT Magnet, Martin GT Magnet, Moore Square GT Magnet, Zebulon GT Magnet, Carroll, Davis Drive, Dillard Drive, East Garner, East Millbrook, West Millbrook, Leesville Road, Wake Forest, Wakefield and West Cary.
High Schools: Enloe GT Magnet, Sanderson, Green Hope, Athens Drive, Garner, Millbrook, Leesville, Wake Forest, Wakefield, Cary, Apex, Broughton and Rolesville.
Apex High’s orchestra is having problems recruiting experienced strings students. Todd Miller, the orchestra director, and the school’s strings boosters note that it’s been harder since Apex Middle School dropped its string program about five years ago.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Apex Middle dropped the program a few years after the well of students from Apex Elementary began to dry up after that school lost its GT magnet status and orchestra.
Wake Forest Middle School is down to 31 strings students, none of them in sixth-grade this year. The school could have to discontinue its program in two years after the current students graduate.
Stacey Weddle, Wake Forest Middle’s principal, said she’s hoping to form an arts booster group to spur more interest in strings.
The decline in interest also coincides with the well of students dropping from Wake Forest Elementary School after it lost its magnet status and orchestra.
Apex and Wake Forest elementary schools used to be equity magnets.
When the current magnet program was created in 1982, most of the programs were placed at schools inside the Raleigh Beltline. But amid concerns from suburban families that they didn’t want to have to travel all the way to Raleigh, some suburban schools were designated equity magnets offering the gifted and talented program.
Equity magnets consisted solely of students assigned to the school, also known as base students. The other magnets were a mixture of base and application students.
But in the 2000s, the equity magnets were phased out. Some like Apex and Wake Forest elementary schools were demagnetized while the schools in Eastern Wake were given application draw areas.