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Friday, March 8, 2013

Swinging in Shorewood

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The Shorewood High School Orchestra, swinging since 1925, has blown up to amazing proportions. Today, roughly 25% of all students in the district play an instrument. The roster includes 520 musicians (grades 4-12), including 160 in the high school ranks, in multiple orchestras. Off the Cuff spoke with Joanne Lipo Zovic, president of the booster club, about weeping Italians and why Zeppelin rules.

 

One in four students. That is a lot of strings, a lot of brass and a lot of cash.

Three full-time orchestra teachers handle all that, amazingly. We are fortunate that the school district and the community are committed to arts education, and put their money where there mouths are. We also have an active parent booster organization that helps with music purchases and special fundraising for major purchases and travel. Which is where I come in.

 

How many orchestras are we actually talking about?

Shorewood High School has three: string (mostly freshmen and sophomores), symphony (mostly juniors and seniors), and chamber (by audition and invitation only). Shorewood Intermediate School has one for both 7th and 8th grades, as well as an extra-curricular chamber orchestra. There are two elementary orchestras (for grades 4-6); one at both of our elementary schools.

 

Why orchestra? Don’t the kids like hip-hop these days? Why not jazz or rock ’n’ roll?

Who says we don’t? Our repertoire is very broad. Though largely classical, we also perform modern orchestral works, as well as rock pieces from Led Zeppelin and Apocalyptica.

In fact, Shorewood High School was given exclusive permission from Led Zeppelin to perform a customized arrangement, put together by a retired Shorewood Orchestra director, Jim Bushner.

Additionally, many students use the knowledge and experience from orchestra to explore other forms and styles of music performance. There are plenty of strings in hip-hop.

 

What is so unique about Shorewood that this is even possible?

We have a fabulous teaching staff. We have a fabulous community, committed to building an incomparable musical environment. And as a community, we really prioritize the values orchestra embodies and teaches: teamwork, practice, diligence, patience and effective listening—all critical life skills. And again, this is an experience that parents want their children to have!

 

Do you know of other communities (anywhere in the world) this involved in strings?

There are about 80 public school string programs in Wisconsin, but Shorewood is unique in the size and quality. On a tour in Italy last year, the locals could not believe that so many children from one village played a string instrument. They were weeping with happiness. How can people hear the music? Visit shorewoodorchestra.org. We have a concert calendar on the first page.

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