ACPS String Students Fine-Tune Skills at Divisionwide Music Fest
The melodic sounds of Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) fifth grade orchestra students filled the air at Fiddle Fest, hosted at Francis C. Hammond Middle School (Hammond Middle School) on Jan. 27, 2023. This day-long event had all fifth grade orchestra students working side by side with middle school orchestra directors, who provided the students with insight into pursuing orchestra beyond their elementary school days. Orchestra students from all ACPS middle schools and K-8 schools served as peer helpers, accompanying the fifth graders throughout the day to provide additional learning support.
Fiddle Fest has been held for the past eight years, except during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Alexandria City High School (ACHS) Orchestra Director Veronica Jackson believes the event has had a positive impact in growing and retaining the strings programs at the elementary, middle and high school levels. “Because we are able to involve orchestra students from all schools in our division, the Fiddle Fest models a musical event that truly fosters community,” said Jackson.
Students participate in rehearsals throughout the day and are also given a presentation by middle school counselors, who advise them on the learning process’ next stages. In expanding the scope of Fiddle Fest this year, members of the ACHS Tri-M Music Honor Society staged a fun presentation for participants. The fifth graders also received Fiddle Fest t-shirts and a pizza dinner, with their day culminating in an evening performance open to the public.
Students learn so much in one day, Charles Barrett Elementary School (Charles Barrett) Orchestra Director Erin Flynn explained. She also believes the event is significant to ACPS’ equity work: “Fifth graders are able to participate during the school day with transportation provided, there is no cost barrier, as is historically the case in orchestral music, and students are able to see a future in string playing outside of their once-a-week lessons at school.”
"It's a good way to let students show their skills and practice more,” said student Kellen Pulliam. Classmate Wesley Marvin summed it up, saying, “Fiddle Fest is a fun environment where we can play our instruments and learn from our future middle school music teachers.”
Two elementary school teachers collaborated with the ACHS orchestra director to coordinate the event and serve as host: Laura Torchia, the strings music teacher at Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology, and Laura Ibrahim, Hammond’s orchestra teacher. ACPS also greatly appreciates the anonymous donor who funded the entire event.
If you are interested in supporting ACPS music students, the Alexandria City High School Orchestra Boosters will host a concert featuring elementary, middle and high school orchestras at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Wed., Feb. 15, 2023, at the ACHS auditorium. More information is available online.
- Alexandria City High School
- Charles Barrett Elementary School
- Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology
- Francis C. Hammond Middle School