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Rappahannock Pops Director Kirk Wilke leads Orange middle-school students in rehearsal during Saturday's music residency program.
Locust Grove Middle School seventh-grader Justin Lynch
Rappahannock Pops Orchestra members and Orange middle-schoolers play together in the music residency program.
BY ROBIN KNEPPER
Orange County seventh-and eighth-graders were raving about making music with the Rappahannock Pops Orchestra.
"It's extreme," said Jane Horton, 13, an eighth-grade percussionist and clarinet player who attends Prospect Heights Middle School in Orange. "It's people of different generations coming together to make beautiful sounds."
"I almost cried when I learned about this," said Shelli Bogan, 13, an eighth-grade flutist who attends Locust Grove Middle School. "It's amazing to learn from such talented people."
Over 60 seventh- and eighth-grade musicians from the concert bands in the two county middle schools had the opportunity to spend this past Saturday with a dozen members of the RPO at Locust Grove Middle School.
It was the first outing for a residency program in music education initiated by the RPO and funded by the Virginia Commission for the Arts. The idea is to encourage students by connecting them with professional musicians.
Steven Bolas, choral and band director at Locust Grove, plays tuba with the RPO and was instrumental in implementing the program in Orange County. Prospect Heights Middle School choral and band director Ruben Casteneda also joined the rehearsals and performance in the percussion section.
RPO Music Director Kirk Wilke melded members of the two school bands with the orchestra musicians. During rehearsals and the resulting late-afternoon performance, the professional musicians played alongside the students, giving their young counterparts up-close and personal examples of their breathing, fingerings and the experience of listening for tone quality and musicality.
Rehearsals were interspersed with sectional sessions for instruction and encouragement for the various instruments. Each small group of brass, woodwind and percussion players had two professional musician mentors/teachers to provide instruction and assistance between rehearsal sessions.
The RPO hopes to expand the educational residency program to include professional development for music teachers. Wilke would work with school music directors and act as a liaison to the schools and community.
RPO secretary Susan Hayes said Saturday's event will serve as a pilot program for ongoing residency programs in the future.
The nonprofit RPO is in its 12th season and includes more than 100 professional, semi-professional, amateur and student musicians. A group of 25 to 40 volunteers provide support purposes.
The orchestra has reached more than 50,000 audience members at performances throughout the region. It also supports school music programs and grants scholarships for further music study.
Orange schools Superintendent Bob Grimesey thanked orchestra members for devoting their Saturday to help students.
"I can only describe their contribution as priceless," Grimesey said. "We are so incredibly grateful to all of them."
"We want to get this program into other schools," said Wilke. "It's good to have someone as supportive of the arts as Dr. Grimesey."
But the young women said it best.
"Coming together in music is an amazing rush," said Shelli.
"Being with other musicians and focusing on music, not outside things, makes you part of something bigger than yourself," said Jane.
Robin Knepper: 540/972-5701