Strings on the rise

Strings on the rise

TJ Denhof

The bows  moved in one motion, sound protruding from the instruments. The five sections played their separate parts; the five parts meshed together to form one beautiful song. The judges looked down at the 60 kids and judged them on their playing. The top score was decided for this great orchestra by all three judges.

  The WOHS orchestras have seen a surplus of kids entering the string program. In fact, according to Instructor Christopher Meyer, orchestra student numbers have increased by 40% in the past six years. 117 students participated in orchestra six years ago; now, 165 students are playing in one of the three orchestras at the high school. Symphony orchestra would have made up two thirds of all orchestra kids six years ago.

  The high school isn’t the only part of the orchestral program that’s increased. The middle school program will have about 200 kids next year according to Meyer. These numbers are impressive; however, the most impressive is the amount of 5th grade orchestra students: over 140.

   These numbers are huge for a program that’s increasing every year in numbers and quality. But why are kids choosing orchestra?  “I wouldn’t phrase it as orchestra being the musical class to take, as band and choir still have strong numbers, but it is encouraging to see our numbers continue to grow, even as the number of students in the district has decreased slightly. There are a lot of growing orchestra programs in West Michigan, and I think that the two biggest things that are driving growth are the success of the program and the versatility of the instruments. The quality of the MS and HS orchestra program has been getting better and better, and people like to be involved in successful programs, so more kids are joining and staying than before. Also, the versatility of the orchestra instruments makes them attractive,” Meyer said.

  The internet has also helped out with the increase in orchestral students. “There are thousands of videos on YouTube of people performing on stringed instruments in fun and unique ways, and there are so many ways that you can get involved with your instrument outside of school. I think all of the music teachers in our district do a good job of making music relevant to students and that helps a great deal in growing in a music program,” Meyer said.

  The increase in orchestral students has provided an opportunity for the WOHS orchestras. With more kids comes possibly one more orchestra in the high school.

“Right now, we are able to absorb the increased students at the HS level, but it would be wonderful to see the program grow to the point that we need to add another orchestra to the mix,” Meyer said.

  The orchestras continue to do great things as both symphony and chamber orchestra took the top rating at the annual District festival. With the continuous growth in orchestra students each year, things are looking up for the WOHS orchestras.