(COLORADO SPRINGS) — Widefield School District 3 (WSD3) connects students with melody and tunes through their orchestra program.
“So I’ve been working in the district for almost 20 years,” Orchestra Director of Widefield High School, Sara Miller, said. “When I first got here, it was a very small program, and there was only three orchestra teachers. And year after year after year, you know, through collaboration and community growth and outreach, we have grown the program to what it is today.”
While over the years, many students have walked the halls, the love for music has remained strong. Seeing students perform and shine with their musical talents serves as a reminder for Miller why she pursued teaching.
“I mean, that’s why I’m a teacher in general, because I get to see students grow and you give them this information, they’re like little sponges, and they just keep receiving and receiving and they grow,” Miller said. “And when they have those ‘aha’ light bulb moments and they connect… it’s so rewarding.”
Students in the chamber orchestra at Mesa Ridge High School will be competing at the state level on April 20.
“So we’re really excited. I think for me, what I think about going into these competitions is just how can I make this experience for our group the best possible, no matter the outcome, even if we don’t get like the highest rating,” Mesa Ridge High School Orchestra Teacher, Jenna Noble, said. “How can I make this experience matter and be memorable for this group of students this year.”
Students must first audition for chamber orchestra, which ranges in grade from freshman to senior year. For freshman Danica Weber, she recalled her experience of trying out for the group.
“So I’ve been doing violin for four years, ever since sixth grade and when I tried out for chamber strings, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m so nervous. I don’t know if I’m going to get it.’ I was like, so negative about it,” Weber said. “And I made it as a freshman. I was so excited. I was so happy. Like it made my whole entire rest of the year.”
On Wednesday afternoon, students were rehearsing and working on different songs that would be played at the state competition.
“So as far as our daily rehearsal goes, there is kind of competition season rehearsal and then just a regular season rehearsal,” Noble said. “During competition season like this, we usually start our rehearsal with a warmup together and then we work on our competition pieces for the majority of the rehearsal.”
The orchestra program has been around since Mesa Ridge High School first opened its doors in 1997 and continues to bring students who hold a love for music together.
“Nationally, 20% of public schools only have orchestra programs,” Miller said. “So, orchestra is super rare and it’s good to see it continue to grow and having validity in the district.”
Miller expressed why music can play such a significant role in the lives of students.
“Because it allows students to be themselves,” Miller said. “It gives them outlets and outreaches that core classes don’t necessarily give. I think some kids will be connected to math or science, but music uses all parts of the brain.”
When asked to explain the dynamics of the orchestra group, one student expressed how the group has grown even closer since the start of the school year.
“I generally think that we’re like a second family and we’re just like, so close to each other because even though it hasn’t even been a full year yet,” Mesa Ridge High School Sophomore, Sariyah Phillips, said. “We’ve just grew closer and closer and it’s like the best thing ever.”
Phillips plays the violin and expressed her gratitude for being a member of this special group.
“When I’m performing, all of my problems just go away,” Phillips said. “It’s like second therapy, I love orchestra.”
WSD3 is fostering a love for music in their students and a love for teaching in their staff.
“I feel honored to work with these kids, honestly,” Noble said. “They teach me things every day that I did not know before, just on how to be a better human and how to just work together as a team. I feel honored to be able to lead this group of students, and I just hope that I am guiding them in the best way that I can.”