Oxford’s orchestra program has marked a decade of music education this year, according to Director of Orchestras Natalie Frakes.
“The orchestra program started from scratch 10 years ago,” said Frakes. “By now, we have students that first started in the program as 4th- and 5th-graders who are graduating. It’s interesting to see the progression of the program. We’ve really concentrated on making it the highest quality string education that we can, especially within the county. Oakland County has some of the best orchestra programs in the state of Michigan.”
Since its beginning in 2007, Frakes said she has been pleased to see the program enrollment numbers soar in recent years.
“The orchestra program has seen a lot of growth and progress in quality over the past ten years. Especially at the high school and middle school levels. There were always a lot of kids at the elementary levels but, numbers at the high school level especially have increased over the past four years,” she added.
Today, the program offers music education to students from the Developmental Kindergarten level all the way through high school.
There are currently 182 total students enrolled in the high school and elementary school orchestras according to Frakes and, at the middle school, there are currently 106 students enrolled (grades 6-8).
From Developmental Kindergarten through third grade, the district offers the Suzuki Strings program, a tuition-based curriculum in which students receive instruction in either violin or guitar.
The program gives young students the opportunity to learn a stringed instrument much earlier than many other districts, Frakes said.
Orchestra is offered at all levels within Oxford Middle School (OMS) and Oxford High School (OHS).
Middle school orchestra students have performed at a vast array of community locations such as Independence Village, Oxford Concerts in the Park and Evergreen’s Coffee and Bake Shop, according to OMS Director of Orchestra James Berezney.
Students at the high school are currently offered concert orchestra, symphony orchestra and chamber orchestra. Every year, the high school orchestra competes at the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association (MSBOA) Solo and Ensemble Festival held in March. For the past two years, the OHS orchestra has received the highest possible score at the competition, according to Frakes.
Among the many lessons orchestra directors try to instill in their students at all levels are those of self-discipline, performance skills and teamwork.
“We prepare students to make exceptional contributions on campus through their musical experiences in orchestra and we provide an excellent orchestral education to foster enrichment, a friendly atmosphere, team building, musical excellence and fun. We really love creating quality string education and making sure the students have an awesome experience in our program,” she added.
With ten successful years now behind the orchestra program, Frakes said Oxford orchestra teacher have set their sights on an even better future.
“We hope to continue to grow this program so we can increase class sizes and increase the number of classes that we offer. I would say it’s our goal just to continue growing. It would be fantastic to have another orchestra at the high school level during the school day and continue giving Oxford students the ability to play string instruments because orchestras are very rare these days. We would also like to see our program traveling more. We went to Disney World last year with the high school and it would be fantastic to eventually take the orchestras to competitions all over the world,” Frakes said.
The orchestra program will host its Fall Spooktacular with special guests electro-pop violin band NUCLASSICA and the Oxford Dance Conservatory on Tuesday, October 24 at 7 p.m. at Oxford High School.
Future performances, such as the Dec. 13 Holiday Concert, can be found on the program website at www.oxfordorchestras.weebly.com.
Frakes thanked the community for its support over the last ten years and said she hopes to see program support continue through performance attendance. Donations may also be made directly to the program. Checks should be made out to “Oxford Community Schools” and may be submitted to Frakes.