With the help of Houston ISD district leadership, Ortiz Middle School has earned fine arts magnet status and is in its first year of offering an orchestra program. Located near Hobby Airport in southeast Houston, Ortiz Middle School’s budding orchestra program promises students new opportunities to engage with music in a less affluent part of town where access to arts education has been historically limited. When the Houston Symphony heard this wonderful news, our Education Team was eager to help this new program get off to a strong start.
This year, the Houston Symphony has launched its first Middle School Mini-Residency at Ortiz. The Mini-Residency concept has grown out of the success of both our Residency at Crespo Elementary School (presented by BBVA Compass) and the frequent pre- and post-concert visits that children who attend our many Student Concerts throughout the year receive from our nationally recognized Community-Embedded Musicians. To scale the success we’ve had at Crespo and deepen the connections we’ve made through musician visits, we have launched six new Mini-Residencies this year.
They might be “mini” Residencies compared to the intensive program we have developed at Crespo Elementary, but make no mistake: these programs add considerable depth to a student’s musical education. At Ortiz, the Mini-Residency began this year with 50 6th-grade orchestra students, who are in the process of receiving five in-school Community-Embedded Musician visits, a clinic with our Musical Ambassador/Assistant Conductor Carlos Andrés Botero, seats at one of our Student Concerts and tickets to one of our Classical Series concerts in May.
This support is part of a strategic effort on the part of the Houston Symphony’s Education Team to foster instrumental music education in public schools in east and southeast Houston. With the success of our Residency at Crespo Elementary School, we want to make sure that students who age out of the program can continue their musical educations in Middle School. Located just 10 minutes from Crespo, Ortiz will be an ideal feeder school for local music students. Ultimately, we hope to work with our partners at HISD and this community to develop music education in public schools from Elementary through High School.
Even in the first year of this new program, we can see the promise of things to come. During the first visit at Ortiz Middle School, Community-Embedded Musician David Connor (bassist) was thrilled to see two of his former students from Crespo Elementary who joined the 6th-grade orchestra after their experiences in the Houston Symphony Residency at Crespo. The students’ level of enthusiasm and engagement was contagious, leading to a high-energy group of enthusiastic and inquisitive first-year orchestra students. These students’ excitement to play an instrument and be creative is just what we hope to encourage for years to come.