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Volume 24, Number 7 — July 2017

Youth Orchestras in Middle Schools & High Schools

Kim Barrett (Academy of Strings) leading string instruction at Mountain View Elementary School, Johnson City, Tenn.
Kim Barrett (Academy of Strings) leading string instruction at Mountain View Elementary School, Johnson City, Tenn.

By Angela Wampler / A! Magazine for the Arts | March 27, 2012

In the Greater Tri-Cities area, string instruction is offered in two city school programs. In Kingsport, there are youth orchestras in two middle schools — John Sevier and Ross N. Robinson — as well as at Dobyns-Bennett High School.

In Johnson City, youth orchestras are at Indian Trail Middle School and Science Hill High School. The orchestra directors are Ross Badar in Kingsport and Susan Lambert in Johnson City.


String Instruction at Mountain View Elementary


The string orchestra program at Johnson City's Mountain View Elementary School was the brainchild of the school principal, Dr. Debra Bentley. When the complex opened in 1995, she asked the Barretts at the Academy of Strings to develop and direct a program at the Title 1 school.

Today, all second-graders are given the opportunity to sign up for string classes that begin once they are in the third grade. Students practice every morning before school in an ensemble setting with a teaching assistant. The Johnson City School System paid fees and purchased instruments. Most of the instruments are used by more than one child. All the instruments are for school use only. Some students, after being in the program for one year, have received instruments from parents or family and have instruments to practice at home.

Tim Barrett says, "Teaching talent education at the Academy seems to be a good fit at the Title 1 school. People are people, and we don't know which students are disadvantaged or on any type of financial aid. We teach with the same expectations for all students. However, the stories you hear from some of the children who confide in you will simply rip at your heart. So we try to make the experience of playing a string instrument a happy, positive one. You can see the sense of pride and accomplishment on the faces of all the students when they play a concert for a large audience of schoolmates and parents. Hopefully, the skill and ability to play a string instrument will be something they hold onto through their teenage years. Many of the students do go on to middle and high school playing instruments they learned back in their elementary years."

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- Private Instruction