GATE Orchestra celebrates 25 years

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Kihae Kim (sixth from the right) is pictured with students in the advanced strings program of the Anaheim Union High School District's GATE Orchestra program. The GATE music program is under the direction of teacher and professional performer Julie Metz, who founded the GATE music program 25 years ago. All 350 music students performed recently during their Winter Concert at Orangeview Junior High School in Anaheim.

By Loreen Berlin

The Anaheim Union High School District’s GATE Orchestra is celebrating a milestone; it was started 25 years ago by professional performer and teacher Julie Metz.

And what began with only a handful of students is now 350-plus-students strong, with string players on violin, viola, cello and bass, who performed their Winter Concert recently at the Orangeview Junior High School in Anaheim. They are under Metz’s direction.

Just this year, Metz also began teaching stringed instruments in the Centralia School District and so now there will be even more young local musicians who don’t have to pay for private music lessons and can learn the good practice habits of music that also helps them in their other studies, while in school and beyond, because music is a discipline.

With the after-school music program, Metz has 13 music programs she now directs and the group is growing each year, with at least one-fourth of the students living in the City of Stanton along with the cities of Anaheim and Cypress, in the AUHSD area.

This year’s program included performances in piano; beginning, intermediate and advanced strings. Darlene Alfuso directs beginning strings; Greg Adamson is over the intermediate strings and Kihae Kim works with  students in the advanced strings. This makes it possible for Metz to go to each of the classrooms to observe how the students are learning.

“Not only are students learning to play an instrument,” said Metz. “They’re learning a completely new language; that of music, and in learning music they also learn to use their left hand and do it all at the same time,” she said, noting that everyone has had fun as they’ve learned to play the stringed instruments.

Do students have homework in their music class? Yes, their homework is playing their music pieces at home after school. For the Winter Concert, they each learned two to three new pieces, some of which included a Mozart melody of, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” “Jingle Bells,” “Up on the Rooftop,” “Blue Danube Waltz,” by Johann Strauss and a Japanese folk song about Spring and the Japanese Cherry Blossoms.

Adamson said the Japanese folk song required students to play notes softly and he explained that playing softly is difficult for students but they managed to expertly accomplish that movement within their musical selection.

“I told you these students were good but they were beyond good tonight,” said one concert attendee. “They were amazing; especially for their young ages.” And they were – amazing – and right on top of their musical game with perfection. That’s great kudos to a team effort of great teachers and students working well together.

For the AUHSD GATE Orchestra, no money for the program comes from the school district; all

monies are donated and the music program’s snack bar helps fund professional music teachers. The programs are taught by musician/performer/teacher Director Julie Metz from the Savanna School District. Anaheim Union High School District GATE Orchestra meets after school weekly for two hours from September through April.

The GATE Orchestra, a private 501(c)3 organization, provides beginning through advanced instruction on stringed instruments to public school students in grades four through 12 and piano keyboard to grades one through six at Orangeview Junior High School on Wednesday afternoons.

For GATE information, email 2julie@fea.net.

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