Dear MCPASD Orchestra Families and Community, March is Music in Our Schools Month and we would like to take a moment to celebrate MCPASD Orchestra students! The pandemic greatly impacted all aspects of education and our lives, and we are happy to report that children in MCPASD orchestra classes continue to thrive and we want to share some highlights with you. 1. We are building a strong community of learners.
Students in orchestra classes are making great strides in creating a culture of belonging that is in line with the district's equity work by learning music from diverse genres. Younger students even spent more time composing their own music that represents their unique backgrounds and interests!
The 4th grade orchestra curriculum was revamped last year to better meet the needs of learners and be more accessible to all students.
During online learning time, student learning focused on the Wisconsin State Music Standards from the Wisconsin Music Educators Association. This engaged your children creatively, provided new learning opportunities, and informed the continuing of this important work as students returned to classrooms.
MCPASD families have been exemplary in their support for the students, encouraging them at home, attending their performances, and listening to them share their orchestra stories.
2. Students continue to have unique and exciting learning opportunities.
4th, 5th, and 6th graders have made incredible progress over the last several years. The students worked hard to master new skills and set goals for themselves through the "Orchestra Karate and Orchestra Olympics Challenges," and were thrilled to share their music at their first in-person performances as a community of learners!
7th and 8th graders used their skills and knowledge in school concerts, solo and ensemble festivals, and in-class demonstrations of their own compositions, including hip hop songs. It has been exciting to watch these students gain independence in their playing and develop critical thinking skills. They rock!!
High school students participated in a number of exciting performance and travel opportunities:
Opportunities to link up with younger students through the Eine Kliene Kindermusik and Winter Tea performances just as they connected with older musicians when they were 4th grade beginning string students.
Multiple solo and ensemble performances, as well as Fine Arts Week concerts and advanced in-class assignments.
Local musical events including Bach Around the Clock and the NBC 15 Sounds of the Season broadcast.
The MHS Orchestra performed the national anthem at a Milwaukee Brewers game.
Toured Spain and Portugal, learning about the musical culture and historic importance of the Iberian countries.
In the last 5 years, MCPASD faculty have invited the following musicians into the 4-12 orchestra classroom:
Mark Wood from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Madison Symphony Orchestra, harpsichordist Trevor Stephenson, & violinist Kangwon Lee Kim
Jazz violinist Randy Sabien & improvisational cellist Matt Turner
Nationally known composer David Ott
Local composers Neb Macura, Kimberly Osberg, & former Kromrey MS orchestra teacher Bill Hofeldt.
Teachers are still in touch with many past students who studied in the orchestra classroom from 4th through 12th grade in the MCPASD district and are now successful professional musicians and teachers:
Amy Noll (1974) recently retired as an orchestra teacher in NY.
Tina Westphal Thompson (1993) tours the Midwest as a fiddler with the local band Annie and the Oakies.
David Auerbach (1997) is Adjunct Professor of Viola at the University of St. Thomas and performs with the Minnesota Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and Minnesota Opera Orchestra.
Kim Beck Hieb (2002) is Assistant Professor of Music at West Texas A&M University.
Ruthie Krause McQuinn (2005) tours the Midwest as a fiddler in her family band.
Naomi Hasan (2006) and Hannah Thompson (2016) teach orchestra in Oregon Schools.
Beth Larson (2007) is the Director of Institutional Giving for the Overture Center and performs on violin with the Madison Symphony Orchestra.
Brian Acker (2008) is a music teacher at St. Josaphat School in Chicago.
Nathaniel Wolkstein (2009) is a professional violinist, producer, and composer.
Daniel Kuzuhara (2010) is a respected piano teacher in Dane County.
Julia Tibbetts (2014) is teaching music in South Korea after serving as a long term orchestra substitute for MCPASD in 2019-20.
Janet (Zilt) Zintel, Teresa Amman (2005), Emma Meinholz (2011), Caitlin Johnson (2011), Rachael Wagner (2011), Jude Elliott (2012), and others have gone on to teach in areas other than music.
Many MCPASD graduates continue to perform with their instruments in local community orchestras and quartets, return to watch performances, play at alumni functions, and stay in touch.
3. String classes are growing!
286 4th graders are learning in orchestra classes this year, almost 60% of all 4th grade students in the district. This is an all-time high, showing that even a global pandemic has not slowed the high interest in this popular opportunity to study music.
437 5-12th graders are involved in orchestra this year, which is on par with enrollment numbers pre-pandemic. Students succeeded through virtual learning, developing independent learning skills and continuing their growth as musicians. Enrollment numbers remained steady or grew as we returned to in-person learning. This reflects that our students are highly engaged and interested in learning their instrument. They identify as musicians!
Two full time orchestra teachers have joined us in the last five years, and the present faculty hope to see another increase soon to support student learning and keep class sizes similar to those in other areas. More staffing would decrease class sizes, improve the student/teacher learning ratio for kids, and allow faculty to be in fewer buildings to promote an even better sense of community.
The continued impact of the MCPASD orchestra curriculum would not be possible without the support of families and community. Thank you for continuing to support student learning through music in the Middleton-Cross Plains Area Schools! MCPASD Orchestra Teachers Kristen Flak Nancy Kurr Steve Kurr Eric Solberg