Wake County strings programs in danger

Mark Styles talks to his middle school students about their upcoming performance. Mark Stiles teaches middleschoolers as well as highschoolers.

Wake County has stopped creating string programs for all new public elementary, middle and high schools

North Carolina is not the only one dealing with threats at losing the string program — every state has to evaluate how much they value the string program. The arts department is not being cut, funds are only being “redirected” to other areas.

Todd Miller, music director at Apex High School, is concerned for the strings program because Apex middle no longer has a middle school orchestra program. It’s not that they cut the arts program budget, but that they redirected the funds to other departments. The problem here is that without students that have some prior knowledge of instruments, it is difficult to come up with a well-functioning string program. Without middle school string programs, there is little interest in playing in high school. When students are inexperienced and having to learn the basics, it is almost too late to teach them.

There is a window of opportunity for teaching music. Studies have shown that the peak learning age is elementary through middle school years. Teachers must take advantage of these prime learning years.

The magnet program created in 1982 was for schools within Raleigh’s Beltline. This allowed parents who wanted to get their kids started on various languages and other electives early.

Apex and Wake Forest Elementary used to be magnets up until the 2000s, when magnets phased out. The programs have remained and instruments transferred from various schools.

Strings supporters pleaded with the Wake County School Board to continue the string program in middle schools because without middle schools feeding into the high school, the string program in general might be is in danger.

As elementary and middle schools close down their string programs, it effects the high schools all over. Rather than being able to perform and progress with adept students, teachers must start from scratch and teach the basic fundamentals to students.

In one case with Todd Miller, the principal Matt Wright said that had Miller not been teaching a separate guitar theory class, he would have to hire Miller as a part time teacher.

The problem is that string instruments are quite expensive and difficult to manage because if you leave them in the cold, their strings condense, and if they are left in heat they will expand. This is very hard on the strings because they can’t handle the expanding and shrinking, and it leads to strings quickly being worn out. The instruments must be stored properly, and this requires additional funds to provide a safe place for them. Instruments get broken around kids because children break things.

So why should children have accessibility to such expensive pieces of equipment? Because Music helps people develop and grow. Music also helps people focus, relieves stress and just changes one’s mood in general. Music without question is a very influential force, for the better or for the worse. There have been studies done to show correlation between “negative” influencing music resulting in youth acts of violence.

It is worth the risk for sake of the string orchestras and to continue the legacy of music throughout the ages.


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