All-School Orchestra Concert tonight
WORTHINGTON -- Beth Habicht considers herself blessed.
"I always have other teachers tell me I have the easiest job -- I always get the best kids," she said. "And I say, 'I understand your jealousy.' I do. I do have the best kids. But they work very hard. They have a commitment and they work very hard."
Habicht, winding down her 38th year in the Worthington public school system, has been involved with the orchestra program through it all. She can be forgiven for thinking her students are the best, because she's seen them grow so much before her eyes.
On Monday, she was asked about her favorite teaching moments. She replied that she loves the dedication students exhibit when they learn a piece even when it's difficult. And she loves to see high school students enjoying their instruments so much that they begin preparing for college auditions.
"Taking a shy little student who has just finished third grade who may be fascinated by the cello, the violin or the viola, and then they start learning to play the instrument, and they find out that this is something they really love," she gushed. "And they're successful at it. And that success spills over into other aspects of their lives. And they become leaders."
Tonight, beginning at 7 p.m. in the Worthington High School gymnasium, Habicht will direct the 2006 All-School Orchestra Concert, featuring students all the way from fourth grade to high school seniors. The director will retire at the conclusion of the school year, but she's been too busy preparing for the concert to become introspective.
"I don't have time to get emotional," Habicht said.
But others appreciate the tradition she has maintained in Worthington.
"Thirty-seven years of dedicated service to District 518 students is truly remarkable," said Lori Dudley, orchestra student parent and Board of Education member. "Mrs. Habicht has impacted literally thousands of students providing outstanding orchestra instruction in sharing her gift and passion for teaching. She has built a strong orchestra tradition in the Worthington schools, which is not only well known in southwest Minnesota but across the state."
This year marks the 109th year of orchestra in Worthington. It has survived cuts, and threats of cuts, and in 2006 the program features more than 100 students in grades 4-12. It is the only public school orchestra program within a 60-mile radius in any direction.
Funding for orchestra at the state and national levels are spotty, Habicht said, and because student numbers are not always large, sometimes the program has been considered for cuts. This year, as District 518 considers another round of budget reductions, the orchestra program has been spared. But Habicht said the program suffers psychological damage when students and families ponder an uncertain future.
"We've been on the chopping block the last two or three times, but we've never been cut. But the psychological damage is still there," she said.
For now, at least, orchestra appears to be a healthy program at District 518. Habicht considers herself fortunate to have taught music for 40 years (including two years in Iowa before arriving in Worthington). Being a music teacher is a special privilege and responsibility, she said, because programs such as orchestra are not required.
"(Students) really invite you to be a part of their school life," she said.
At tonight's concert, the final piece will be "America," and it will be played by orchestra students from every grade. WAMBO (Worthington Area Music Booster Organization) is planning a reception for Habicht following the concert, with cake, coffee and punch served.