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Camille Cruz's purple violin caused controversy at her middle school when her teacher asked that she rent a standard violin so she could fit in with the class.
Camille Cruz’s purple violin caused controversy at her middle school when her teacher asked that she rent a standard violin so she could fit in with
Camille Cruz's purple violin caused controversy at her middle school when her teacher asked that she rent a standard violin so she could fit in with the class. (Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times)
FARMINGTON — The girl with the purple violin and the Tibbetts Middle School Orchestra couldn't settle their differences.

Camille Cruz, an 11-year-old sixth-grader at Tibbetts, switched her elective from orchestra to choir Tuesday morning, said Sherry Lopez, the girl's mother.

She made the choice to switch music programs over the brouhaha caused by her nontraditional violin.

Cruz was told last week that her purple violin was not suitable for a middle school orchestra and she would have to use one of the school district's wooden-bodied instruments.

The order struck a nerve with Lopez. She argued with the teacher, the principal and the school district to try to get the purple violin in the classroom. The dust up was to no avail.

Lopez said the district told her Monday that the purple violin was not allowed in the orchestra.

"Some people are saying I just wanted to start drama and that wasn't the point," Lopez said. "I was just trying to show Camille that she could fight for what she believes in."

The school district agreed to waive the $30 rental fee, as it does for all students who can't afford it, said Frank Stimac, the superintendent of campus programs.

"We try to the best of our ability to give the best education with the best tools possible," he said. "That's what we were trying to do and it went south."

Monica Leaming, the orchestra teacher, has not returned calls for comment.

Several of Leaming's students and their parents came to Leaming's defense. They said that not allowing oddly colored instruments in an official orchestra is the right decision.

"Colored instruments are usually of poor craft and quality and aren't suitable for a professional and classroom setting," Angelo Espinoza, a Farmington High School sophomore and orchestra member, wrote in an email. "Those criteria, in professional and classroom settings, are what my current teacher, Ms. Leaming, is providing and is trying to provide to all of her students as well as Camille (Cruz)."

Leaming's orchestras perform top-notch concerts several times a year and the middle school student musicians wear matching slacks and shirts and all use wooden-bodied instruments, said Judy Johnson, a parent of two orchestra students in Farmington schools and the organizer of a parent group at Tibbetts.

"The idea behind an orchestra is that individuals come together as one ... . To have a purple instrument, that's what everyone would see," Johnson said. "I would equate (the purple violin) to somebody in marching band that wouldn't wear the uniform."

The school district is also standing by its orchestra teacher.

"She's a phenomenal instructor and she gives everything she has to that program and she's a great musician, too," Stimac said

Meanwhile, Camille will be teaching herself violin at home, Lopez said.

"Camille is an awesome person. She could have been awesome in orchestra," Lopez said. "It's their loss."