Daniel Fear conducts on Wednesday during symphony class at Heights Middle School in Farmington.
Daniel Fear conducts on Wednesday during symphony class at Heights Middle School in Farmington. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)

FARMINGTON — Two days a week, band and orchestra students at Heights Middle School converge in Daniel Fear's classroom to tackle the challenges of performing as a symphony.

The classroom fills with the sounds of violins, flutes, clarinets, cellos and more as students learn to adapt to a different performance style.

"I love getting to conduct a symphony," Fear said. "It's fantastic. You're joining the colors of the band and the strings. It's such a deeper palette of colors you can make and blend with the symphony sounds."

For the second year, Heights is offering the class during the school day. It had been taught as an after-school program and is the only symphony program offered in the San Juan County.

Reagan Cordell, left, and Sage Lauderback, tune their violins on Wednesday during Daniel Fear’s symphony class at Heights Middle School in
Reagan Cordell, left, and Sage Lauderback, tune their violins on Wednesday during Daniel Fear's symphony class at Heights Middle School in Farmington. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)

The symphony is comprised of the seventh and eighth grade string instrument musicians with select members of the eighth-grade band.

"My ultimate goal for doing this is for them to enjoy symphony literature," Fear said. "I want them to gain a deeper appreciation of symphonic music."

Fear volunteers his planning period during the week to teach the class, which performed at the Southwestern Colorado Large Group Music Festival in Cortez, Colo., in April 2013. The symphony scored a superior rating, the highest mark, at the festival.

Seventh-grader Reagan Cordell and eighth-grade student Nate Benson said they've enjoyed the time performing in the symphony.

"I like hearing all the different sounds with the band," Cordell said. "They have cool notes."

Benson and Cordell shared the challenges of mixing the woodwind and string instruments together.

Violinist Cordell said keeping in tempo and rhythm has been a challenge and Benson said the strings take longer to play their notes than on a clarinet, which he plays.

"The string, it takes them longer to play their notes than it does with our fingers," Benson said. "It's a little bit of a problem to go and match up their rhythms."

At center, Nate Benson plays the clarinet on Wednesday during Daniel Fear’s symphony class at Heights Middle School in Farmington.
At center, Nate Benson plays the clarinet on Wednesday during Daniel Fear's symphony class at Heights Middle School in Farmington. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)

Fear said the most challenging aspect of teaching symphony is getting the woodwinds and strings to listen to each other.

"It's a very delicate balance of learning to adjust to teach each other," Fear said. "The strings play with the strings vibrating and with the wind players, they are making a body part or reed vibrate. It's a very different concept of creating sound and trying to get those two to blend together."

Heights vice principal Donny Ortiz said the students benefit from Fear generously tacking an extra class to his schedule.

"It's all about students, they learn from and about a very talented, hardworking, and humble individual," Ortiz said.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @jkelloggdt.