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Uncertainty, Disappointment After Orchestra Teacher Leaves

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Band and Orchestra teacher Brice Evans conducts the orchestra.

Band and Orchestra teacher Brice Evans conducts the orchestra.

Band and Orchestra teacher Brice Evans conducts the orchestra.

Tristam Thompson, Staff Writer

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After conducting a successful performance at Baccalaureate last May, former orchestra teacher Carly Taylor announced, to the disappointment of the orchestra, that she would not return the next year.

“Taylor chose to pursue a job in another school district,” Band Director Brice Evans said. “If she’d had it the way she wanted it, she would be here.”

Taylor’s job was not an easy one–she taught orchestra during zero hour between 7:30 and 8:30 every morning and then taught at Dunbar and Horace Mann Middle Schools. As a new teacher, Taylor was paid an entry-level salary.

As a zero-hour class, Orchestra seems like less of a real class and more of an extracurricular activity. Like many school programs, it is given minimal funding by the district, which has traditionally required that orchestra teachers at Central teach at several other schools. It is the opinion of many in the orchestra that the Little Rock School District lacks commitment to the program, even though having strong programs would benefit the district, and Parkview’s orchestra is enthusiastically supported.

“If we want to have great orchestra programs, then we need to find ways to keep great orchestra teachers,” Evans said.

Taylor’s departure is especially disappointing given the success the orchestra had under her leadership. Longtime teacher Tom McDonald retired after the 2014-2015 school year and was replaced by another teacher, who quit halfway through the 2015-2016 school year. Taylor, then a student teacher, took over and was hired for the next year after pulling together a robust spring concert.

Under Taylor, the orchestra did extraordinarily well in All-Region and All-State auditions, as well as the Arkansas School Band and Orchestra Association contests. They even held a concert featuring popular children’s music at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

Taylor made it clear in May that she would not return, and Evans learned that he would be teaching Orchestra for the 2017-2018 school year only in the last week of July. Some orchestra members are skeptical of a band director teaching the class, and the group has lost much more than Taylor. Much of the upper-class orchestra graduated last year, and its size has not been restored by freshmen.

“We don’t have much of an orchestra anymore,” one student said.

Despite the unexpected setbacks and upcoming challenges, the orchestra has no choice but to persevere. It has hopes riding on it.

“Mrs. Rousseau is extremely supportive of the orchestra program,” Evans said. “She has done everything within her means to see that it does well.”

The orchestra is more than a collection of people playing disparate instruments. It is a community, and one that we cannot afford to give up. It is worth working for.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with the students so far,” Evans said.

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