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Music Teachers Work Towards Harmony Despite Tight Budget

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Effie Walton -- a River Bend parent who has more than 30 years of professional music experience -- volunteers to teach music three days a week at the school.
Jonathan Wilson
Effie Walton -- a River Bend parent who has more than 30 years of professional music experience -- volunteers to teach music three days a week at the school.

In Virginia, a growing number of students at a Loudoun County middle school are showing interest in music, but recent budget cuts mean the school has fewer music teachers.

Matt Baker, the band and orchestra director at River Bend Middle School, says he knew he'd be teaching more students this year.

"I did expect some retention and some influx of new students, but the overall number grew much more than I thought it would," he says.

This fall, the number of students in strings had doubled, and the band added 100 new members. On top of that, the school had just cut funding for two music teachers -- one full-time and another part time.

So Baker went looking for help and found a community rife with professional musicians willing to chip in, including River Bend parent Effie Walton, who has more than 30 years of experience playing the violin, including a long stint with the Athens Symphony Orchestra in Greece. She volunteers at the school every other day.

"We all wish that the budget could be different, and we could have more music teachers, but it's also a way that we can show everyone how from a negative situation we turn it into a positive," Walton says.

Loudoun's superintendent has proposed nearly $12 million for new teaching positions in the upcoming budget to deal with the 3,000 new students the district expects next year, but much depends on the what county supervisors decide about the local tax rate.

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