Students in Fort Bend ISD could potentially take part in the first music program of its kind in the district beginning next school year.
During an agenda review workshop Jan. 13, FBISD trustees unanimously approved the creation of a piano technician program at Marshall High School. The first classes for the program, which would be phased in over the next four years, would be offered beginning in the 2020-21 school year if the district’s application is approved by the Texas Education Agency.
FBISD Fine Arts Director James Drew said officials with the Steinway Piano Company approached the district back in 2016 about beginning a collaborative piano technician program to address what was described as an occupation that has become a rarity in the music industry.
“We were very interested, because we’ve been looking to do some innovative programming,” Drew said. “We’re really excited to start this program.”
Prior to approval, FBISD officials undertook conversations with the Marshall Focus Advocacy Group (MAFG) after community members began requesting innovative programs and resources be placed at Marshall. Those school officials say it was received with enthusiasm.
“We’ve had multiple conversations with the committee, and they have a high interest in having this program,” FBISD Chief of Schools Joe Rodriguez said at the Jan. 13 meeting.
The MAFG consists of community leaders, parents, stakeholders, students, alumni, educators and professionals in the industry. As of now the program will be limited to Marshall, but officials say expansion would be worth exploring once it gets underway.
“We immediately knew that it would be something special,” committee member Stephanie Brown said. “The piano technician program will complement Marshall’s fine arts program by allowing our community students to think outside of the box.”
Students taking part in the program would be offered classes as part of four one-year programs available to all FBISD students as a “program of choice” as long as they have transportation to and from Marshall through the district’s Early College High School program. Those enrolled in the class would learn about each part of the piano and its purpose as well as how to move, finish, tune and repair them. Eventually, students enrolled in the program would assist in repairing the hundreds of pianos throughout FBISD.
FBISD is offering the program in collaboration with the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music, with two of the university’s piano technicians on staff to help write the program curriculum. Those taking part in the program would be able to earn high school credit as well as multiple industry certifications that can be transferred upon graduation.
It would also allow them to do anything from starting their own business to pursuing jobs through retailers such as Steinway or pursuing post-secondary training and certifications through the University of Houston, according to Drew.
“It would be a seamless transition from high school into the advanced certification training,” he said.
Ultimately, Brown said, the MAFG is about preparing students for what lies ahead. And she believes that the program, if approved, would do wonders for that purpose.
“The piano technician program will definitely benefit Marshall High School students now by affording them the opportunity to learn financial literacy and how to operate a small business as part of the curriculum,” she said. “These same skills will be valuable in the future in their everyday lives, or should they decide to master another skill or career.”