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Busting at the Strings: Parents Fill New Orchestra Class to the Brim


Parents packed the orchestra room Sept. 13 for the first-ever Parent Orchestra class.

Brian Coatney, Wylie High School’s director of orchestral studies, teaches parents how to play a string instrument in this free class he offers in the WHS orchestra room on Tuesday nights. 

“It is going great!” Mr. Coatney said. “I was overwhelmed with how many registered, but excited about working with all of the parents. I have been impressed with their commitment, renting instruments and their enthusiasm to learn.”

Teacher shows violin.

No seat is empty during Parent Orchestra on Tuesday nights; 113 adults enrolled in the free class.

He came up with the idea of hosting the class in hopes of helping parents better understand what their orchestra kids do and to help create a new bond with them.

“Based on the first two classes, I think it is going to be an exceptional year,” Mr. Coatney said.

Marisol Schoeck, an English Language Learner Aide at Whitt, enrolled in the class to learn to play violin. Her son, Nathan, attended Wylie East High School.

Parent smiles with violin.

Ms. Marisol Schoeck has wanted to learn to play the violin for years. She now has the opportunity to learn for free.

“I’ve been wanting to play violin for so long, but was so scared,” Ms. Schoeck said. “My son said to just do it, so I enrolled.”

Mr. Coatney has lots of help teaching his new class. His WHS orchestra students tuned each parent’s instrument at the beginning of class.

“One part of this project that I did not expect was the orchestra students’ reaction and willingness to help,” he said. “The students have been awesome working with the parents and it’s been rewarding for me to see them teaching adults how to play an instrument.”


Students tune violin.

WHS Orchestra students helped Mr. Coatney by tuning instruments for the parents.

He may have no formal music training, but Ron Smithson is no stranger to music. He used to play the drums and now he is learning to play the cello in Parent Orchestra. 

Man plays bass.

Former drummer Ron Smithson rented a cello to play in Parent Orchestra.

“It’s always been my dream to play the cello,” Smithson said. “When this opportunity came, I was all over it.”

Apparently, lots of people were all over it; there wasn’t an empty seat during the first two Parent Orchestra classes.

Teacher shows violin.

Orchestra Teacher Mr. Brian Coatney explains the different parts of the violin to his Parent Orchestra students.

“We had to close the class due to the number of people registered,” Mr. Coatney said. “We will hopefully have another class next year.”

One hundred thirteen parents enrolled in the class.

Dana plays violin.

Dana Smith has always wanted to learn to play an instrument. Parent Orchestra provided her with the opportunity to fulfill a life-long dream.

Dana Smith is learning to play the violin in Parent Orchestra. Music runs all throughout this retiree’s family. Her sons were in band and her grandfather played the fiddle; she was excited to get to join her family in their love for playing music. 

“I saw this and thought it was perfect,” Smith said. She said she is nearly 59 and told herself “If I don't do it now, I'll never do it.”

Woman holds violin.

Class attendants learn how to properly place their violins under their chins.

Like all great orchestras, the class will get to showcase what they learned by performing during Wylie High’s Orchestra concerts.

“I plan to present two to three performances throughout the year,” Mr. Coatney said. “One in December, one in March and the final one in May. The May concert will feature a side-by-side concert with the parent and their child enrolled in orchestra. Being part of that concert is always a highlight for me.”

Man plays violin.

Wylie East High School Math Teacher Mr. Hong-Nguyen Phan is learning to play the violin in Parent Orchestra.

Wylie East High School Math Teacher Mr. Hong-Nguyen Phan appreciates Mr. Coatney’s teaching style. 

“I think he's a very good teacher for a huge class like that,” Mr. Phan said. “The homework is very helpful. As a teacher, I couldn't think of a better way to give homework than the way he's doing. [Mr. Coatney] always emails us the day after class to summarize what's been discussed in the class and tell us what we should do at home for practice,” Mr. Phan said.