Maryville school orchestra program boosts students' academics

Maryville Middle School orchestra program boosts students' academic performance

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By ERICA ESTEP
6 News Education Reporter

MARYVILLE (WATE) - Budget constraints, and increased demands on students to perform in the classroom are putting the squeeze on music education programs nationwide. Maryville's school system is still embracing music education, despite the changes needed to put a greater emphasis on science, and math.

Maryville Middle School orchestra students get to fine-tune their skills for half an hour a day, everyday. Seventh grader Kamryn, Dagel said she knows she's lucky. "A lot of schools don't get to do that. A lot of schools don't think that's an important part, but it really is."

Their teacher, Allyson Finck, explained that the daily lesson keeps them growing, not just in music, but in academics. "They're using their brain a different way in music. They're using their math, they're using their science, they're using their English, their history, she added. "They're using all those things, but at the same time."

Orchestra is also social, a time to unwind, even a mood booster for some. "It's a big part of my day, and I really like it," said 12-year-old Dagel. "If we didn't have it, that would just make me really upset."

There's a liberal arts college nearby, and these students have access to the Clayton Center for the Arts as a concert venue. They seem to have a leg up on the competition.

Recently the orchestra experienced the chance of a lifetime, getting lessons from, and sharing the stage with world renowned violin group, Barrage. Emma Hendrix plays the cello. The 12-year-old explained how it felt to perform on stage with Barrage. "It's amazing that we get to do this with people like that. It's really fun to be able to perform with them, and just kind of get into it," she said.

Daniel Pentecost, a Barrage musician, talked about working with the Maryville middle school students, and their dedication. "The kids sound really good, but more importantly they really went for it. We were asking them to do some unconventional things too," he said. "We asked them to yell at certain points. We had them stand up, and there was one point where we had all the violins swaying back and forth while they were playing."

This was the third major concert they've played in. Fourteen year old Samuel McNelly plays double bass. "It's just a great honor to get to play with all these great groups, and get Maryville Middle School out there as a fine arts school," said the 14-year-old. 

Despite all the accolades, to increase academics, the Maryville school district looked at trimming music in 2011. Parents protested, and major cuts were not made.

"Our administrators are very supportive, and they listened to the community, and the teachers, who love music, and want a part of it as our education," explained Finck. "They listened to us, and they're keeping it."

The orchestra schedule is changing though. Instead of the current daily sessions, starting next year, the students will have music every other day. The time in class each session will double. "Even though it seems like less time in orchestra, it really isn't," said Finck. "It's just restructuring the time."

Maryville Schools officials say they have one of the largest music programs in the region. About 60% of students, district-wide, are involved in music education. Maryville schools focus on three principals that they call the triad of excellence, academics, athletics, and arts.

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