Some things are simply worth the wait.
The Mansfield Independent School District (MISD) began an orchestra program in the 2016-17 school year. It's actually something MISD Fine Arts Director Dr. Russell Sanders wanted to start years ago, but as with everything, it's often all about timing.
"In 2009 we presented it to the board and everyone was excited," Sanders recalled.
However, the economy went down and with it state funding for schools. Sanders and others like him around the state watched teachers lose their jobs, and even had concern for their own positions.
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"There was no way in good conscience we could cut all those teachers and start this," he said.
Now, the timing is right. The dream Sanders has had for years became a reality in the 2016-17 school year.
It began with a a pre-orchestra class for fifth-graders and is now available for sixth-graders, with the plan being to add a grade level each school year until the program is also throughout all the high schools.
"The second tier of the program is now a third option (with choir and band)," Sanders said. "Every year the program will grow. Next year we'll be talking about orchestra in middle school."
If everything stays on schedule, the program will be in the high schools, for freshmen at least, by the year 2020. At that point, Sanders said, others in higher grades with some orchestra training outside of school can also participate, just as next year eighth-graders with such experience can join seventh-graders.
"You won't start beginning orchestra in high school, just like we don't start band in high school," he said. "We never say never, but it's very rare, and you have to get caught up with private lessons and such."
How long has Sanders wanted an orchestra program in the MISD? Well, before he even got the job 14 years ago he made the suggestion to the late Vernon Newsom, then MISD superintendent.
"I was in my final interview with Mr. Newsom and I said, 'We've got 15,000 kids in the district and no orchestra program?" Sanders said. "We were in a phase of rapid growth, and in a major suburban school district like this, it was a missing piece of the puzzle.
"But starting an orchestra is an extremely expensive proposition, expensive for years."
Newsom died in a motorcycle accident in the summer of 2009, shortly after retiring, so he never got to see the orchestra program come to fruition. It has however, been successful in its short time with classes on six intermediate campuses and 231 students involved, Sanders said.
"Orchestra was a priority addition for Mansfield ISD for several years," MISD Board President Raul Gonzalez said. "Fortunately, we were able to add the program last year. I expect the orchestra program to be just as successful as our band programs, which have been among the best in Texas and nationally for years."
In the fifth grade students are offered a rotating choice of electives such as six weeks in choir, pre-band, etc. From there, they decide what they'd like to focus on in the sixth grade.
Orchestra is now part of that rotation.
"We added a pre-orchestra class for fifth-grade kids," Sanders said. "If they come through that fifth-grade rotation, they get a snapshot of what it's like, whether it's orchestra, band, choir, whatever they choose.
"It also gives the teachers a chance to expose kids to what they (teachers) are doing. They can market the benefits of their program."
No experience is necessary to join the orchestra at the intermediate school level, Sanders said.
"That's ground zero, the starting point," he said. "Teachers assume zero prior knowledge, though that's not usually the case. Most kids who come into the program can read music."
There is no competition with other schools at the intermediate school level, though the end of the year does include a lower competitive activity among the students, Sanders said. He also said since the University Interscholastic League is adding middle school orchestra competition in the 2018-19 school year, some of the programs will visit some orchestra festivals around the Metroplex in the meantime.
"It gives them a taste of what lies ahead. There's no competitive requirement, per se," Sanders said, calling it a foundational background. "They won't be a deer in the headlights."
He said it parallels what they have been doing with other programs, such as band and choir.
Sanders said most established larger school districts have string programs. He cited nearby school districts such as Arlington, Fort Worth, Dallas, Frisco, Grand Prairie, Wylie, Keller, McKinney and Denton.
"Now, it's an expectation that it's part of the offering," he said. "It took a little longer than we thought here, but it's off to a great start."