Strings are ties that bind at Beechwood |[02/06/07]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Now nearly 10 years into retirement, physician Gerald Rankin is working harder than he ever has. Starting in August, he’ll be working even harder.

Rankin, 62, a retired obstetrician and former high school biology teacher, has been spending this year teaching fifth- and sixth-grade students at Beechwood Elementary how to play the violin.

The program has been so successful that the Vicksburg Warren School District has decided to extend the opportunity to younger grades and into the junior high level, as well.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

&#8220I’m having the time of my life,” Rankin said. &#8220These kids are great. I show up early for class, and they’re there waiting on me. Then when class is over, I have to shoo them out of the classroom.”

Public schools have band and music programs. Superintendent James Price said Rankin proposed offering an introduction to string instruments last year.

&#8220I think it’s a wonderful idea to expand the program,” Price said. &#8220It seems to have a very positive impact on our students.”

About 16 students are involved with the strings program, and next year the opportunity will be expanded to about the same number of third- and fourth-graders and those in the program who are advancing to Warren Junior High.

&#8220The students who are participating have really taken a keen interest,” said Jack Grogan, principal at Beechwood. &#8220We want to see them continue with what they’ve learned already.”

The program has incorporated other important lessons such as time management, Grogan said.

&#8220Most of them even practice on the weekends,” he said.

Students meet five days a week for 35 minutes during activity time, and Rankin gives private lessons to those interested five days a week.

&#8220It’s my love,” he said. &#8220My ultimate goal would be to have a string orchestra or a full orchestra. It’s been amazing to me how well this idea has been received. It’s fully exceeded my expectations.”