On February 3, 2016 Thara Memory and Susan Addy visited Alice Ott School to meet with the orchestra director Marlene Trigg and James Johnston the School principal as well as Oregon SymphanyOrchestra education director Monica Hayes.
We met in the principal’s office and talked about the factors that contributed to the success of this program. Oregon Symphony’s Studio to School Project is a five-year community music partnership with the David Douglas School District that aims to enhance an already-vigorous culture of music education by bringing performance, student coaching, and teacher mentoring to K-12 students and educators at Gilbert Heights Elementary, Alice Ott Middle School, and David Douglas High School. The project serves to promote equal access to high quality music education, provide staff development, and enhance arts integrated learning for children. The program involves after school, one on one instruction
We had hoped to learn about ways to bring music to middle school ages students within the school environment.
We did learn that the David Douglas district has a commitment to music education throughout their schools and the district. Alice Ott School not only has an orchestra but a choir and a band. All students are encouraged to learn to play an instrument through the scheduling and the encouragement from the principal. There are opportunities for the students to play at schoolwide events.
What stood out for us was the difference it makes to have a district-wide policy supporting music in the schools. There isn’t any other music instruction at King School although they do offer “African” drumming and dance. Portland Public Schools has suffered from extreme budget cuts so music hasn’t been offered. The rigor required in order to play a musical instrument needs to be understood and supported by other staff members as well. All of the King students were beginners this year even though we are in the second year of the grant cycle and many joined throughout the year so our instructors had to keep repeating beginning instruction.. Our most talented students from last year moved to other schools that have music programs.
What resonated with us was the deep commitment on the part of the principal and the difference an experienced orchestra teacher can make.
We are bringing home inspiration about what can be accomplished when the school and the arts program work together. In addition, we will be implementing our parent committee to help us to become more successful.
How this will impact our program at King School in Portland:
New insights into creating a healthier partnership.
The need for strong parent support.
Regular meetings with school staff about student progress as well as disciplinary issues.
Importance of continuity from year to year.