ARVADA, Colo. – The music program at North Arvada Middle School is a source of community pride, and as staffing needs have the school have changed over the years, volunteers like orchestra instructor Dr. Lisa Cook have become much more valuable.
“Without Dr. Cook, we wouldn't have an orchestra program at the school anymore,” says music teacher Alex Randolph.
Dr, Cook’s involvement began a few years earlier, when her daughters were part of a strings program at Hackberry Elementary. Dr. Cook, an accomplished pianist with a degree in musicology, had never played the violin until her oldest daughter decided that was the instrument she wanted to play.
“When she was three, she said she wanted to play a violin. I tried to convince her we play keyboard instruments and I failed,” Dr. Cook laughs.
Cook accompanied the Hackberry group on the piano at their performances in elementary. When the instructor retired, Dr. Cook agreed to lead the current students in the program until they got to middle school. That meant find creative ways to keep the group together during the pandemic. The result was a series of performances in a neighborhood park.
When pandemic restrictions started to ease up and students returned to school, the principal at North Arvada asked Dr. Cook if she would be willing to help with the orchestra program so that the music teacher could concentrate a bit more on the band and choir programs.
Cook says she originally thought she was just going to be volunteering one day week. It quickly became much more than that.
”They're fabulous kids, and I love making music with them,” she says. “You see the work they do -- it's amazing. Especially when they come in sometimes, you know, at a lower level. Just get them to a space where they're so proud of what they're doing.”
The music teacher says having Dr. Cook’s expertise available is like having an extra right hand. He says the students love the attention she is able to provide them.
“They will probably say that she's nicer than me,” Mr. Randolph chuckles. “Dr. Cook has just such a lovely patient ethics with the students. She's no nonsense, and she's calm and supportive.”
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“There are certain people, and they're rare people, that just get an enormous amount of joy and fulfillment from being able to provide happiness and that extra life experience. And she's one of them,” adds North Arvada principal Justin Banham.
As for Dr. Cook, she doesn’t know how long she’ll be volunteering at North Arvada. Her oldest daughter, the one who got her playing the violin, is now a high school senior. Still, she hopes sharing her story encourages other people to take their expertise and volunteer in the school system.
“This is such a great opportunity to be here and make sure we're providing these great musical experiences that are going to carry them through life.”
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