Orchestra director wins Collin County Trailblazer of the Year award


Peyton Jefferson, Editor

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Orchestra director Ronald Planks has recently won the teacher of the year trailblazer award from the Collin County Black Chamber of Commerce for his outstanding work in leading the community. Planks started several non profit organizations to help implement orchestra programs that influenced students throughout the metroplex.

“I have a non profit organization that I founded, it’s in my mother’s name, The Veta Louise Morriel Arts and Leadership Academy, but from that I created a community orchestra called Strings of Color,” Planks said. “They are basically recognizing me for creating Strings of Color and this mentor program I created called E.T.H.O.S, which stands for Ethnic Teens Honoring and Owning Success for young males.”

Planks’ club, E.T.H.O.S, worked to provide positive role models for young men in his community by holding meetings and discussions after school.

“Me and some of the fathers and leaders in the community would meet with these young men,” Planks said. “At it’s height it had about 51 young males coming every Tuesday after school.”

Planks was also the founder and director of the Strings of Color Community Youth Orchestra, which provided a unique orchestra experience for students of color ranging from middle school to college level experience.

“When I was coming coming through orchestra, I was like the only African American there,” Planks said. “There are more now, but I wanted to really create an organization that tailored or choose music in a way that would attract more minorities. A lot of the concerts that we would do focused on R&B, gospel, and jazz. It turned out to be very successful. At it’s height we had about 32 students in the orchestra.”

However, Planks has begun to focus more on establishing Prosper’s orchestra program.

“When I came to Prosper I stopped both of them,” Planks said. “My cofounder and I were looking for a way to start it up again, but because my energy has been so focused on starting the program here, I kinda had to let it go. I think the focus now is really just making sure the Prosper orchestra is very successful.”

Planks also has new plans to challenge the orchestra as it continues to expand.

“What’s exciting is I am definitely taking the orchestra to UIL this year,” Planks said. “It’ll be our first year to go to UIL. I think we’ve grown enough that musically we will be very competitive on stage. We’re also taking a trip to Disney so that’s very exciting because we have a lot of cool stuff planned.”

As a teacher, Planks will continue to push himself to provide for what the community and his students need.

“I think every educator should look at their classroom and their school as a whole to see where there’s a need and what they could do or create to meet that need,” Planks said. “It doesn’t always fall on the community, the parents, the leadership, but we as educators can all just take a look and see if there’s a need somewhere and we can create something to address it.”