Together, they have given the Alexandria City Public School system 63 years of service. They have nurtured countless band and orchestra students from that first squeak to high school graduation. This year, Wayne and Virginia Taylor are saying good-by and retiring to do other things.
"We decided about five years ago that this would be our last year,"
"Not because we don't like what we do but because it's just time to go onto something else," said her husband, Wayne, completing her thought as they tend to do with each other.
Wayne is the orchestra teacher at T. C. Williams High School and at the Minnie Howard Ninth Grade Center and Virginia, or Ginny, as she prefers, teaches fourth and fifth grade students at Charles Barrett and John Adams Elementary Schools.
Wayne came to Alexandria in 1969. He got his bachelor's degree in music at James Madison University and his master's in music at Catholic University.
"I have taught at most of the schools in the city," he said. "I remember one year that I was teaching orchestra at six different schools. That wasn't too successful. Two schools is pretty much the most that really works."
HE ASSUMED the position as orchestra director at T. C. in 1995. "We did get to work together for a while," Ginny said. "There was an opening for a band instructor at John Adams when Wayne was teaching strings there. We really enjoy working together so I applied for it."
Like Wayne, Ginny has worked at almost every school in the system. "Even some that aren't here anymore," she said. She has only taught elementary school.
While a few of their students have gone on to greatness, most do not study music. "We always tell them that they should only make music a profession if they really have a passion for it," Wayne said. One of their students, Alex Carr, is the grand master of an orchestra in Amsterdam. Another is a well-respected music educator in Virginia. "When she [the former student] travels around the country to adjudicate competitions, she always talks about the fact that she got her start at ACPS," Ginny said.
"While having those students who make music a profession is certainly rewarding, it's the student who just does their best and enjoys participating that I tend to remember the most," Wayne said.
A student called him just this past Thanksgiving to express her gratitude.
"She seemed surprised when I remembered her," Wayne said. "She told me that she had had a lot of trouble in middle school and that orchestra was the only thing that meant anything to her," he said. "That's when you know you've chosen your profession well."
GINNY REMEMBERS a brass class at Barrett. "All of them were boys," she said. "They were slouching all over the place and I told them that they needed to sit up straight if they wanted to get good sounds out of their instruments," she said.
They disagreed and asked if they could try playing while lying on the floor.
"I let them and they sounded beautiful," she said. "If a principal had seen me with all of these kids lying on the floor playing their instruments, I probably would have lost my job."
Annetta Lawson, principal at Charles Barrett said "Ginny is a remarkable teacher. She is dedicated and does an excellent job with the children. She is patient and kind and she will certainly be missed."
T.C. Principal John Porter, said of Wayne, "Wayne has a special gift for getting the best out of the kids. We will all miss him."
School Board member Molly Danforth, expressed a similar sentiment about Wayne. "I have worked with him on a few projects over the years," she said. "We took a group of orchestra students to some of the Assisted Living facilities and it was a wonderful experience. Wayne relates really well to the kids and the orchestra at T. C. sounds great. He will be hard to replace."
JULIA MOLINE is an 11th-grader at T. C. and plays the violin. "I love Mr. Taylor," she said. "He's great. He just has a way of managing everybody with patience and kindness."
Last year, when Wayne realized that he wasn't going to have enough violas in the orchestra this year, he asked Julia to consider learning the viola. "I worked on it over the summer and have been playing viola this year," she said. "I am glad that he challenged me to do something different. I will really miss him."
Julia's mother agreed. "He has a way of getting the most from his students without being harsh or expecting more of them than they can give," said Ann Moline. "Both Wayne and Ginny are the epitome of what we hope we will find in all teachers. They will be missed."
The T. C. orchestra will give their final performance under Wayne's
direction on May 31. Ginny's final concert at Barrett was in April.