Chris Jessen, vocal music teacher at Newburg, said he's dreamed of starting an orchestra since joining the school's faculty. And with the recent arrival of 10 brand new instruments, he's preparing to make that a reality.
Chris Jessen, vocal music teacher at Newburg, said he’s dreamed of starting an orchestra since joining the school’s faculty. And with the recent arrival of 10 brand new instruments, he’s preparing to make that a reality.
“I’ve wanted one since I came here seven or eight years ago,” he said. Jessen explained that orchestra programs, or strings programs, or usually found in larger schools. With a senior class of around 40 students, Newburg didn’t have the budget to support bringing strings to the school. However, thanks to a donation from the MoSci foundation, the school will soon be expanding their music department to include a small orchestra.
Jessen said he met the Day family, who runs the MoSci foundation at an event, and the topic of a Newburg strings program was brought up. Jessen said the Day family was excited to fund something that benefits students and brings diversity to what they can accomplish in school.
Thanks to the donation made by the MoSci foundation, Jessen said they were able to purchase ten instruments, all brand new. Newburg acquired four violins, four violas and two cellos, which are now in a state of adjustment, according to Jessen, getting their bridges tightened and letting the
instruments adjust to the torque of new strings.
Despite being limited to ten instruments, Jessen said he’s not going to let that curb the size of the program. He anticipates having students share instruments during class time to allow as many students as possible to be involved.
“I have a feeling it’ll be a full class,” Jessen said, explaining how students began coming into his classroom the day the instruments arrived to get a look at them, each displaying interest in being a part of the school’s first orchestra.
Jessen said the students will be starting at the most basic level, as most of them will not possess any background in stringed instrumental music. A viola player himself, Jessen said he will be using what’s known as the Suzuki method of teaching in the class, which teaches music in the same way a new language might be taught. The method teaches students how to “speak” the language of music, rather then having them memorize movements and melodies. The Suzuki method is one of the most commonly employed methods of music education.
Jessen said he would like to have an “elementary kind of concert” by the end of May, something informal, to ease the orchestra into performing together. Eventually, he said he would like to see the strings program compliment the other ensembles in the Newburg Music Department, having the orchestra and choir perform together. He said he would also like to have an opportunity to expose the students in the new strings program to professional sting ensembles, to inspire them, and show what an orchestra can do.
“One thing I’d like to do is get them to Powell Symphony Hall,” Jessen said.
As Jessen gathers students to form Newburg’s first orchestra program, residents can look forward to an expansion of an already excellent program, and a wider variety of musical opportunities for the students.
“Schools are known for something,” Jessen said. “And I want Newburg to be known for it’s music program.”