Few MOC-Floyd Valley's size have strings

MOC-Floyd Valley School District orchestra teacher Laura Haverdink helps sixth-grader Abby Wallinga tune her viola before the start of orchestra rehearsal.

ORANGE CITY—The MOC-Floyd Valley School District has a secret hidden in plain sight.

Not only is it the only community school in Sioux County with a strings program, it also has a symphony orchestra experience at the high school level.

“Hardly any schools our size in the state of Iowa offer this musical opportunity,” said instructor Laura Haverdink of the Class 3A school district. “There are only 10 schools in Iowa that are similar in size to us who even have a strings program in their school. Most schools that have strings programs are much larger.”

The strings program is offered for third-12th grade. When Haverdink started teaching 37 years ago, she had 75 students. She has 180 in the program this year. She credits the success of the program to its founder, Martha Breese.

“Breese was my violin teacher beginning in sixth grade in 1971,” Haverdink said. “That’s when Maurice and Orange City districts merged. She was an amazing teacher. Her passion for music and for students was so evident. We were her family.”

After graduating from Northwestern College in Orange City in the spring of 1983, she began teaching general music at Orange City Elementary that fall. She also had the chance to teach string lessons one morning each week in third-fifth grades.

“I had that position for two years when Mrs. Breese told me she would be retiring,” Haverdink said. “She asked me if I was interested in having her show me the ropes’ I said I’d love that.”

The position began has half time but grew to full-time teaching and giving lessons as the program continued to grow. Amanda Lemke provides addition part-time help by teaching the strings at Hospers Elementary and assisting with middle school lessons.

Carrying on that family atmosphere Breese started among the strings students is Haverdink’s main goal.

“I want each student to know and feel that they are a valued member of our team,” she said. “No one sits on the bench for our team. Each one of them has a unique contribution they can make to our team.”

Haverdink also said she has amazing children to work with.

“They have a wonderful work ethic and they strive to do their best in all that they do,” she said. “I love to work with all different ages. If they begin in third grade, I have the opportunity to work with them for nine, 10 years, which makes it hard to say goodbye when they graduate.”

Haverdink also credits parents, a school board and a community who value music education for part of the success of the strings program.

Through the strings program, students participate in concerts, contests, recitals and field trips and are encouraged give back to the community by sharing their musical talents. Each December, students do so by performing at three area nursing homes. Others play in the community orchestras and the Tulip Festival Night Show orchestra and provide special music at area churches and events such as weddings.

“I just love it when a student comes to me with a piece of music they want to practice for something like that,” Haverdink said. “It shows how they’ve really made this musical skill their own passion and their excitement and interest for what they do helps fuel what I do too.”

The high school orchestra takes a trip to Chicago every four years.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many of the students,” Haverdink said.

She said two years ago the students were able to see “Hamilton,” a musical that was not giving out any group tickets but a letter from Haverdink made it to the producer’s desk and 60 students were able to see the production.

Other stops on the four-day trip includes a Chicago Symphony concert, Field Museum of History, Shedd Aquarium, Medieval Times Dinner & Theater, a clinic time with a college professor and sightseeing time.

“My advice to our high school orchestra students is to find something you love to do so much that you would get up each morning with a smile on your face and go to work even if there wasn’t a pay check for doing that,” she said. “When you love who you work with and love what you do that much, the paycheck is simply a bonus.”