BROOKINGS – Orchestras from three Brookings schools played their holiday concert to a record crowd Dec. 18.
More than 560 students from Camelot Intermediate School, Mickelson Middle School and Brookings High School performed in Jostad Gymnasium in front of more than 2,000 people.
The concert highlighted the success of the Brookings schools’ orchestra program, which nearly ended at one time.
Kathy Winghart took on the dying program seven years ago, directing and teaching all strings students in the school district.
“I am absolutely amazed at the growth of the string program over the past seven years,” Winghart said. “When I started, there were about 40 students in grades four through 12. Soon, we needed to hire a second string teacher and then a third, and here we are today. It’s truly amazing.”
Camelot orchestra director Jon Bakken directed the fourth- and fifth-grade orchestras and even composed two of their pieces. Laura Rice directed the sixth-grade orchestra and the seventh- and eighth-grade orchestra. Winghart directed the high school orchestra in three numbers, including two that were originally performed by the Trans Siberian Orchestra.
The program ended with all of the students playing Bakken’s arrangement of Jingle Bells.
“The support of the community and the district is truly heartwarming,” Winghart said. “The orchestra students are learning a skill that they can keep with them their whole life through.”