Jackson Strings’ reinstatement spells relief for VWSD

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 19, 2009

A vote by Jackson Public School board members to renew a contract with the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra takes some of the pressure off one-teacher violin classes offered in the Vicksburg Warren School District.

If you go

The Mississippi Symphony Orchestra will present “Pachelbel in Venice” at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at The Church of the Holy Trinity, Episcopal, on South Street. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted.

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The Strings program, for which funding was uncertain, serves 460 students in the JPS. A component is that some of the teachers are members of the Mississippi Symphony who rely on the income to remain in the Jackson area. In turn, the MSO offers such programs as a youth orchestra in which many students of Vicksburg’s Dr. Jerry Rankin participate. Without the Jackson jobs, the program was in jeopardy.

Michael Beattie, president and executive director of the Mississippi Symphony, which is performing Sunday in Vicksburg, said Wednesday that the instructors have resumed classes at certain schools and scheduling would need to be worked out with each principal. “We’re excited to continue this program,” he said.

Beattie said the contract for the rest of the school year is for $211,000, an $89,000 reduction from the initial commitment.

He said the fund covers three components — strings instructions for 460 students, elementary school music education from three orchestra ensembles and an MSO performance for elementary students.

The Jackson decision to suspend the program had outraged parents and prompted them to plead with the board members. In addition to protests at school board meetings, an online petition was also circulated.

In Vicksburg, the Phi Theta Kappa honor society at Hinds Community College’s Vicksburg campus, led by professor and parent of a Beechwood Elementary violin student, Sarah Nichols, has in progress efforts to raise funds for five new violins for students who can’t afford instruments. The four-year-old program, taught by Rankin, a retired physician, is growing and advocates, including Rankin, want to see it expanded with more teachers.

Vicksburg Warren Superintendent James Price has said the local district has had no intention of ending the classes offered to 45 students from Beechwood, Warren Central Junior High School and Warren Central High School. The district’s only expense is Rankin’s salary, estimated at around $32,000.

Mississippi does not provide funds for music instruction, so district funds must support enrichment programs without the state supplement provided to classroom teachers.

The MSO concert here is an annual November event, usually before a packed audience at The Church of the Holy Trinity, Episcopal, at Monroe and South streets. The final event in the Four Seasons of the Arts is a candlelight concert starting at 7:30 p.m. There is no admission charge, but donations will be accepted.


Contact Manivanh Chanprasith at mchan@vicksburgpost.com