- Associated Press - Monday, June 1, 2015

GARY, Ind. (AP) - The teachers who run the school orchestra at Wirt-Emerson Visual and Performing Arts Academy in Gary are committed to growing the program despite financial challenges in the local school district, they said.

There once were only 30 students in the class, according to orchestra director Rovelli Grib, a professional violinist who was raised in the Ukraine. But that number has since doubled.

Students at the school serving grades five through 12 are required to audition to get into the department of their choice, such as orchestra, art, dance or choral, The (Munster) Times (https://bit.ly/1SQyzEn ) reported. Auditions are held twice a year for students in grades six and up who are interested in learning string instruments, Grib said.

“We teach them string instruments, that’s the viola, violin, cello and double base,” he said.

“We divide the kids into small groups and large ensembles. Our curriculum is based on the Indiana State Standards. They come to school here in fifth and sixth grade with zero preparation, and we start them off from the beginning. By the time they graduate, we deliver a final product.”

Orchestra instructors also work with students to determine where their talents lie and the best way to express them, according to Grib and orchestra teacher Carol Semmes.

“Sometimes we suggest something and they just blossom,” said Semmes, who at started at Wirt-Emerson in 1995, serves as an adjunct professor at Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois and also performs with the Kankakee Valley Symphony Orchestra.

Orchestra students must be in good academic standing and pass the ISTEP-Plus exam for their respective grade, she said.

Wirt-Emerson partners with the Confucius Institute at Valparaiso University, as well as Hang Zhous, the top performing arts school in China. A group of 18 students traveled in October to China and performed in four cities.

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Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com

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