South Washington County Schools

Orchestra Program Receives Statewide Award

Orchestra Program is Recipient of the Meritorious Orchestra Program Award

Received by Minnesota String & Orchestra Teachers Association (MNSOTA) at Fall Clinic Workshop on Thursday, October 17, 2013

In 2006, former Superintendent Tom Nelson and the District School Board approved the motion to form an orchestra program in the South Washington County School District. The district serves all or parts of Cottage Grove, Newport, St. Paul Park, Woodbury, Afton, Denmark and Grey Cloud Island, all Eastern suburbs of St. Paul, South Washington County School District is the sixth largest school district in the state of Minnesota serving over 17,000 students in 21 schools each year.

With a mission to empower lifelong learners through experiencing the broad spectrum of the aesthetic and fundamental elements of music, the SWCS music department strives for students to realize their full potential as human beings and members of the global society as music enhances their quality of life.

In that first year, the orchestra program began with an enrollment of 225 fourth and fifth grade students from across all of the 14 elementary schools, directed by Kristi Sullivan and Michael Sloane. Due to overwhelming popularity and success, the decision was made to expand the program to include sixth graders, and enrollment expanded to 380 students. Each year, the orchestra program added a grade level; the fall of 2010 marked the first year of offering orchestra in all three high schools. In the fall of 2013, SWCS assessed an enrollment of 1,300 students across grades 4-12 in all of their 21 schools (14 elementary, 4 middle, and 3 high schools), having grown about six times the size of that initial enrollment of 225 students.

This academic year is a significant one for SWCS as it is the first year of graduating seniors who were present at the inception of the orchestra program back in 2006. To celebrate this achievement, the orchestra program staff helds its first District Orchestra Festival on April 27, 2014 at Woodbury High School.


The SWCS Orchestra staff would like to thank all of the past and present administration staff, School Board members, faculty, community members, parents, and especially their students who have made this program what it is today.

The SWCS Orchestra program would like to acknowledge the first two orchestra staff, Michael Sloane and Kristi Sullivan as well as the former Fine Arts Coordinator, Nancy Wiessner for their dedication and efforts in the start of this successful program. Current SWCS Orchestra staff are: Kathryn Buccola (elementary), Valdin Buchmeier (elementary), Allison Johnson (middle school), Kelly Karow (high school), Stephanie McCorkell (elementary), Katie Peterson (middle school), and Jesse Traner (elementary). Former Orchestra staff have been: Cassandra Herold, Michael Sloane, and Kristi Sullivan.

Pictured (left to right):
Ron Kath, School Board Chair; Jesse Traner; Nancy Wiessner; Kristi Sullivan; Stephanie McCorkell; Kathryn Buccola;
Allison Johnson; Katie Peterson; Kelly Karow; Val Buchmeier; Dr. Keith Jacobus, Superintendent.