Phase three bond purchases include instruments, uniforms and equipment

Boles junior high students in their new orchestra uniforms

Boles junior high students in their new orchestra uniforms

Junior high music uniforms and a concert piano for the future Fine Arts Center, along with hundreds of new instruments, highlighted phase three fine arts bond purchases. Much of the $1.6 million worth of equipment and uniforms started arriving in the district in August.

Uniforms for junior high band, choir and orchestra were a notable part of phase three orders as this is the first time the AISD has provided them. Previously, junior highs had to use their own activity funds if they wanted uniforms.

“The formal uniforms our students wear from the AISD bond have made a huge, positive impact on the orchestra,” said Jennifer Martin, Boles Junior High’s orchestra director. “A successful orchestra performance requires discipline, focus and professionalism in both demeanor and in dress. These are also skills the students will need in many different career paths. I see my students transform from junior high students into professional adults when they change into their formal uniforms. They feel a shared sense of pride, confidence and professionalism that has enhanced our performances.”

A committee of fine arts staff from across the district selected the uniforms. Unsatisfied with what was commercially available, the committee developed and ordered a design specifically for the AISD.

“Now we have a full set of concert wear that can be interchanged as enrollment fluctuates," said Dr. Jeremy Earnhart, AISD director of fine arts.

The uniforms are the same for all AISD junior highs, so if enrollment at one school increases, it can pull from a surplus at another school.

Phase three bond funds were also used to order a Steinway & Sons concert piano for the future districtwide Fine Arts Center. Though the Fine Arts Center isn’t scheduled to open until 2020, the piano was ordered now because it takes nearly two years to build.

The other instruments ordered in phase three shouldn’t take as long to receive. The nearly 1,000 new instruments include 312 violins, 152 violas, 149 cellos and some of everything else, from 49 flutes to one vibraphone. Other equipment ordered includes items like chairs, risers, Orff instruments, cases, miscellaneous percussion instruments, pianos, bows, supplemental high school uniforms and more.

Deciding what to buy is a long process and is based entirely on requests from teachers.

“We build a catalog of all the items they could possibly want or need,” said Michael Stringer, AISD coordinator of fine arts and former Martin High School orchestra director.

Teachers at each campus consider their needs, prioritize them and then use an online form to submit their requests. The fine arts department reviews all the campus requests and then submits a comprehensive batch of requests to the purchasing department to seek bids from potential vendors. The best bids are then sent to the AISD Board of Trustees for approval. Once approval is granted, the items are ordered.

It’s a tedious process, Earnhart explained.

“While technology will purchase 1,000 of the same laptops on one purchase order, we purchase a thousand different items with a thousand different purchase orders,” he said.

Then receiving and tracking the orders, which are shipped directly to campuses, is practically a full-time job for Dee Benton, AISD fine arts secretary, who has now been through this process eight times, dating back to the 2009 Bond program.

The work all pays off for students though.

The 2014 Bond program is about promoting fine arts access and growing programs. Since the AISD eliminated instrument fees at the outset of the bond, student participation in band and orchestra has been rising, increasing the need for instruments. Bond funds are providing those instruments and ensuring that no student is denied the opportunity to participate.

The 2014 Bond package includes $9.8 million over the course of five years for district music capital.