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Hitting the Wrong Musical Note


Posted: February 25, 2008 8:18 p.m.
Updated: April 26, 2008 5:02 a.m.
I feel sorry for Dr. Collyn Nielsen, the new principal of Hart High School. Santa Clarita's oldest high school is up for accreditation by an outside agency. Unless something changes, when asked how the arts are faring, he's going to have to stand up there and say that during his first year as principal the school orchestra was killed as an academic course. It certainly won't look good at all to the evaluators.

In late January Dr. Nielsen came to the orchestra class, in which I am enrolled. He said the school budget simply couldn't support the course, and that the students would have to find other ways of fulfilling their musical needs. Then he left. In his wake there are now rumors of other music-related reductions in the offing.

The orchestra, which affords educational and creative development for string players whose instruments are not part of the band, was founded in January 2005, reportedly mainly on the orders of the Hart school district administration.

In my judgment, support from the Hart High School administration was often lukewarm. Concerts, for instance, were rarely, if ever, listed in the school's daily bulletin or on the marquee at the Newhall Avenue entrance, unlike, say, football and basketball. Little official effort was made to recruit students coming from the still-robust orchestral program on the other side of Newhall Park at Placerita Junior High School.

Dr. Nielsen announced the pulling of the plug after just three and a half years, which really isn't much of a gestation period. I'm sure the school had to "support" the band and show choir in their early years before they grew in popularity.

Since the beginning, I have been the orchestra's concertmaster, or lead violinist. I do not relish the prospect of being the only one ever in school history. Over the past 14 months, I also have had the honor of competitively auditioning into three all-state orchestras, helping to bring the Hart High School name to venues where it has not been seen often. A three-peat is a rare feat for any high school orchestra player in California, and, at Hart, perhaps unprecedented, but one that sadly merits little notice.

Because of the success of the band and show choir, which both have been around a lot longer, the orchestra is so overlooked. I think the administration needs to wake up and realize that all aspects of the arts are important, and that an orchestra is a significant component of a well-rounded program.

Keeping the orchestra definitely would give Dr. Nielsen some favorable talking points when those outside reviewers start pounding him with the hard questions.

Alessandra Barrett is a Hart High School senior who lives in Valencia and plans to study music in college. Her column reflects her own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.


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