Band & Orchestra in a small district

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    I have a unique item that I’d like to ask for advice about. I teach in a very small, rural district. The junior-senior high school (7-12) has about 330 students in the total population. For the last few years we have been fortunate to maintain a junior high band with 40+ students, and a senior high band with between 40-50 students. Both myself and the elementary band director have been here in the same district for a while, and the consistency has been very good for the program.
    Our elementary band director also happens to be very skilled at teaching string instruments. Over the years, I have welcomed a violin or two to join in with our bands. I give them oboe parts, and it has gone pretty well. Judges at competitions have always commented positively about this as it demonstrates inclusion. I believe it is important to give all students a large ensemble experience.
    My colleague has done an excellent job growing a full string program at the elementary school in the last two years, and wishes to develop a small orchestra at the high school over the next 5 years, I have a few concerns with this, and I was wondering if anyone would be able to help me clearly articulate and present them at our next district music meeting. Perhaps I am overlooking something, because our first meeting of the year did not go so well.
    First, I have a concern about the balance of the bands. We have a fairly balanced high school group at the current time, except for only 4 Bb clarinets and 2 Bass Clarinets. There are only 3 clarinets in the junior high group. In addition we only have three trombones in the junior group, and haven’t seen any new tuba or French horn students in a few years. Meanwhile there are now 5 violins and a cello in the junior group!
    We have attrition just like any average district would experience. I am figuring it is between 15-25% by the time students reach high school age at our school. To offset this, I would think we would need to start large number of students on instruments like the clarinet in the earliest grades. Again, I am certainly not against students having the opportunity to play a string instrument, but the priority should be ensuring balanced ensembles.
    Another concern that I have is the cost of trying to maintain another instrumental group in a district our size. This economy isn’t very strong as it is, and we have an inventory of school instruments that isn’t being fully utilized. Plans are already underway to raise grant money for new string instruments.
    Would anyone be able to offer advice and suggestions for this situation?? I certainly don’t want to alienate my colleague, and I choose to affirm their talent and the ability to offer something unique to our district. I have thought about an idea to have those talented and highly motivated students learn both a string and brass/ww/perc. instrument
    Thanks for any help folks can contribute.

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