Putting a new twist on an old classic, Kenowa Hills violist Madison Storey was thrilled with the musical selection for the concert she had just played. Sharing the stage with the Grand Rapids Police Department band, she and her fellow advanced orchestra students performed the ‘70s rock classic, “Smoke on the Water,” at Rosa Parks Circle.
“It was a fun piece to perform,” said Madison, an eighth-grader at Kenowa Hills Middle School. “We’ve never performed with a band like that, and it was a new experience for everyone, and a fun one at that. Being able to play a well-known song for a enthusiastic crowd was amazing.”
In celebration of two decades of the Kenowa Hills advanced orchestra program, student musicians are taking their talent to the community in the form of 20 commemorative shows.
The first performance brought the middle and high school students to downtown Grand Rapids Oct.13, as part of the R.O.C.K. (Reach Out Cops and Kids) performance.
The advanced orchestra program at Kenowa Hills includes 120 students in the sixth- through 12th-grade string program.
Officer Josh Cudney, of the Grand Rapids Police Community Engagement Unit, was pleased with the community response to the first-ever R.O.C.K concert and Kenowa Hills’ involvement.
“It was so fun to see their confidence and joy after performing and the large support from the community,” Cudney said, noting for some it was their first time performing on stage. “As a police department we are grateful for our talented youth, and for a community that supports efforts to encourage and shape our youth to reach their full potential.”
Encouraging Community Support
The middle school program is showing significant growth, said Weston Hosler, the orchestra’s director, who hopes that the same happens at the high school level.
“Curriculum and (academic) core demands are so high, that many students do not get a chance to take music all the way through high school,” Hosler said. “We are working to change that through the support of the community. The program as a whole will continue to put together quality performances, special projects, outreach concerts, and also work toward creating a bond with the community that will provide a lasting impression.”
Community focus is one of the pillars of the orchestra program, Hosler said.
“The community is our biggest reason for success or failure, and if we enhance their quality of life, we will in turn help the program grow, spreading more music to more areas in the community, and touching more lives,” he said.
Hosler’s goal for the program is to share the value of learning an instrument to others, he said.
“Studies have shown that music students perform better in school, are more successful in life, and enjoy music their whole life,” Hosler said. “Music helps heal the heart and soul, and the more positive energy each of us possess, the more we spread kindness and happiness to others around us.”
While the musical program does have supporters throughout the community, Hosler hopes to see awareness and support grow as awareness increases.
“Parents, teachers, administrators, students and community members who do not have children in the school system are all potential supporters,” he added. “The more we can spread our love of music to them, the more susceptible (they are) to supporting the program, and in turn providing more opportunities for more kids.”
Throughout the year, the orchestra program runs several special projects such as “Giving Bach,” an outreach program; Walker Pumpkin Bash; Walker WinterFest; teacher birthday celebrations; and special music performed at the middle school for holidays.