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The sound of music coming to William Finch
Orland native hired to teach choir for now, band later
To music instructor Brian Peterson, no student is tone deaf.
The ability to hear and reproduce relative pitch — as with other musical abilities — is present in all societies and in most humans, said Peterson, the newest addition to William Finch Charter School.
"We are all inherently musical," Peterson said. "I just have to convince my students that music means taking chances and sometimes stepping outside their comfort zone."
Peterson, a native of Orland, was hired for the new enrichment program at William Finch in January.
He will also teach Spanish.
"We are thrilled to offer music at William Finch," said principal Susan Domenighini. "Music brings a balance to academics and helps students immeasurably. I cannot express my excitement at watching this program progress."
William Finch Charter School is Glenn County's home independent study program for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
The home-schooling trend has doubled in the past decade, according to the US Department of Education, which estimates about 2 million children are now in the alternative program nationwide.
"The only difference between this and regular public school is that kids are learning independently," said Superintendent of School Tracy Quarne. "The bottom line is that they are learning."
William Finch has grown from a handful of children taught almost exclusively at home to more than 145 students learning California standard education in various classroom-type settings.
When Domenighini took over William Finch administration in 2007, the Charter School and the Willows and Orland campuses were only about a year old.
At the time, charter schools were gaining in popularity throughout the state, especially after a California court ruled home schooling could only be done by licensed teachers.
By 2007, the William Finch staff was just learning how to balance individual instruction with the increased classroom offerings the school buildings allowed, Domenighini said.
"Now, no one can imagine going back," she said. "Home visits, which were very common in 2007, are unusual now. Of course, the use of technology in instruction and communication has increased as well. Like all schools, we have had to make adjustments during these tough economic times, but with increases in enrollment we are able to offer a more diverse program again."
Although Quarne is also a music teacher, he said it wasn't just music William Finch was thinking about when he and Domenighini discussed new programs to enrich the lives of William Finch students.
Outside the Academic Decathlon, in which William Finch students traditionally dominate in competition, the school has few extra extracurricular activities, he said.
He and Domenighini also considered an athletic program, clubs and certainly bringing back foreign language, which had been taught previously.
"When we decided on music and foreign language — any foreign language — we decided to fly a dream position and see what happened," Quarne said.
Never did they imagine they would be able to hire someone like Peterson, who "fit the bill" perfectly, Quarne said.
Peterson, a 1992 graduate of Orland High School, had recently returned to California from Boston, where he had received his master's degree at Harvard University.
He had received his teaching credentials at University of California Berkeley and had taught previously at Mercy High School, a private Catholic school in Red Bluff.
Since returning from Boston, Peterson has been tutoring and presenting at teacher conferences in various states.
He's also no stranger to Glenn County, as he is the son of longtime community activist Olga Peterson.
To Peterson, teaching music at William Finch is his dream job because it allows him to work closely with a small group of students to discover a passion for music that may continue after high school, whether it's by singing or learning to play a musical instrument.
"I want them to be musical in the ways that matter to them," he said.
Peterson feels that same about his Spanish students, and hopes to inspire them to discover the wonderment of learning another language.
Domenighini said the addition of Spanish marks the return of language instruction to William Finch's classroom offerings.
The school offered German in the past.
"Spanish is important both culturally and practically for students in Glenn County," Domenighini said. "Spanish classes will be an asset to both our native and non-native speakers, as they will have the opportunity to share their knowledge of the language and its culture."
The William Finch music students have been settling in to their new course of study and are already looking to perform in public.
The choir, Peterson said, has about 10 students.
CONTACT Susan Meeker at 934-6800 or email@example.com.