Making Beautiful Music Together

Corporate donations help SSISD music program that doesn’t fiddle around when it comes to education

By TERRY MATHEWS | News-Telegram Arts Editor

Nov 18, 2007 - Who knew a Strings program and an energy company could create such beautiful music together?

Staff Photo by Angela Pitts

Senior Service Technician Burt Slaughter and Public Relations Manager Jeanette Moser with ATMOS Energy visited Douglas Intermediate School Wednesday, where they met Strings students Peyton Howard (snd from left) and Scott Sparks, who are holding the two new violins donated by ATMOS.     

The Sulphur Springs ISD’s unique music project got a boost from ATMOS energy this week – in the form of two new violins.

�We have about 100 students this year,� said Terry Vosse, one of the Strings program�s teachers. �The kids have to share the violins, which presents a problem when it comes to taking them home for practice.�

Vosse, who teaches at Austin and Lamar elementary schools, as well as Sulphur Springs Middle School and High School, recently wrote a proposal to ATMOS outlining the need for more instruments.

�This program, which began in Houston Elementary School, is now district-wide,� Vosse wrote. �String classes take place twice a week in all four elementary schools, once a week in the city-wide fifth grade school and string class is a regular class period in our middle and high school.�

Along with support from the school district, the Strings program also got a boost from the Northeast Texas Symphony, which donated 10 violins to the cause at the very beginning of the program in the mid 1990s.

ATMOS must have liked Vosse’s proposal because they underwrote the $600 cost for two violins, which included a nice case and a bow.

McKay Music arranged for the violins, according to Jeanette A. Moser, manager of public affairs for ATMOS.

�McKay gave us a great deal,� Moser said. �Chad Altenbaumer got the very best quality he could for the money, without earning a cent in profit.�

Vosse said that more two students will now be able to take their instruments home after school to practice.

�It is important to ATMOS to be good corporate citizens,� said Moser. �What really attracted us to this project was the partnership of the school district, McKay Music and the Northeast Texas Symphony. We like it when we can participate with as many groups as possible.�

�We choose the really responsible students to take the violins home,� Vosse explained. �We send them home with the ones who always practice and who can be trusted."

Nancy Reese began the school district's Strings program in February of 1995, teaching students at Houston Elementary School how to play the violin.

The benefits of the unique program go beyond simple music, however. It teaches  many disciplines, and the use of fine motor skills relates to higher learning in life, experts say.

When the program was launched in 1995, for example, about 60 percent of music students who apply for medical school are accepted. The next closest group, math and science majors, have about a 50 percent acceptance rate.

Music and math have similar metering systems, as well. When students learn quarter-, half- and three-quarter notes, they're getting an extra lesson in mathematics.

There have also been studies linking music to the development of intelligence, as Dr. Juan Harrison, who was prinicipal of Houston Elementary School when the Strings program started, once noted.

"It's almost like a stimulant that develops that part of the brain that does the creative thinking," he said.

In fact, the first year after Houston school developed the program, standardized test scores went up enough to boost the campus ranking by Texas Education Agency from "Acceptable" to "Recognized."

�It�s important to us that students get a well-rounded education and arts is a big part of that education,� Moser said. �Maybe other corporations will get involved in this worthy project, too.��

The two new violins will make their public debut during a concert performed by middle and high school students at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11, at Our Saviour Luthern Church, 1000 Texas St. 

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