Inspiring Story of Anaheim's First Children's Orchestral Program in 30 Years

Categories: classical

Photo by Brian Brooks for Anaheim City School District
In times of economic hardship, it is a given that school arts programs are the first to get the shaft. Naturally, the three R's are paramount, and, typically, sporting events are shown greater respect due to the social customs that accompany their practice; however, it is tragic that the arts, which offer the greatest contributions to humanity and the enrichment of culture, can be so dishonored that when a small battle is won to bring back what should already exist, the key players are nothing less than saints.

Anaheim City School District (ACSD) is the sixth largest elementary school district in California. Its 24 schools provide education for over 19,300 students; 74% of those students speak Spanish in their homes, and 85% of them qualify for free or reduced rate lunches. According to Dorothy Rose, the executive director of Orange County Symphony (OCS), there had not been an instrumental music program in the district for somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 years. Evidently, this was not to her satisfaction.

Rose became the executive director of OCS in 2004. "From day one, my vision was to bring music back to the elementary students of the city of Anaheim," she says. As noble a vision as this was, she found no support. "I took the idea to many different people, and nobody was interested." Nine years later, following Dr. Linda Wagner's unanimous appointment to the position of superintendent for ACSD, the perseverant Rose and OCS president, Michael Anderson, paid her a visit.

The position of district superintendent can be very political at times. One would be hard pressed to find evidence of classroom experience in the biography of any Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent of the 21st century (allegations of crimes ranging from sexual misconduct to misappropriation of tens of millions of dollars, however, are not so elusive). Dr. Wagner's 27 years of educational experience are testament to her commitment to the field. Rose recounts that during their initial meeting, Dr. Wagner said that she'd "always felt that music was a huge part of what is important to elementary school education."

Upon hearing this, Rose pitched: "We have a 250 roster of really professional, talented, willing musicians...[and] nearly every one of our musicians teaches their own private students." She continued, "There are at least a major number of these musicians who would be willing to come and teach after-school instruction in instruments because I [believe they agree that] kids...participating in teamwork in an orchestral setting is tremendously valuable."

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