Lynn Arrizi walked away from Annandale's Donald Lacey Instructional Center for the last time Friday, retiring after 21 years of bringing music to Fairfax County schools.
"I believe that music is at the core of the curriculum," Arrizi said, "that there's music in every child." Her gentle manner belies the determination that has made her the champion of music in the schools.
Arriving in Virginia from Florida in 1969, Arrizi taught at Greenbriar East and Forest Edge elementaries. It was at Forest Edge that she helped organize the Fairfax General Music Educators' Association and served as president for its first two years.
"We didn't feel like the central office was responsive to our needs," Arrizi said. She and the other teachers felt their time in class, often 60 hours a week, was too long. Participating in negotiations allowed Arrizi to help bring about an agreement for 45-hour class weeks.
Her efforts gave her experience with the system, enough so that Arrizi eventually came to work as music coordinator for the school system in the same office she had once negotiated with.
In her job as music coordinater, Arrizi instituted a special program for children with perceptual or motor difficulties. Known as "Project Beacon," the program taught handicapped and autistic children to learn various subjects through music and physical education.
Along with the program, Arrizi developed the Project Beacon Music Book, containing songs, games and activities practiced in the program. "The book is still used by many kindergarten teachers," Arrizi said.
Arrizi is especially happy about the return of the seven-period day because the extra hour will allow students time for electives such as music. She said she believes the change is responsible for the number of students now taking instrumental or choral music. Participation has increased from 11,700 to 15,102 in the past five years for grades seven through 12.
People and problem solving are what Arrizi says she will miss most about her job. "When I see a teacher or a pupil's having a problem," she said, "I love getting into the thick of it and solving the problem."
It is likely that Arrizi will continue using these skills. Arrizi and her husband, Joe, are avid boaters who live on a boat at the Hartage Yacht Yard in Galesville, Md.
"I'm retiring early," said Arrizi, "so that we can go and realize all of our sailing dreams." The couple will cruise the coast of Maine this summer and then go on to Jacksonville, Fla., for the winter.
They will be accompanied by their parrot, Maria. "She's a smart music bird," Arrizi said. "She whistles Beethoven's Fifth . . . . She can talk like a sailor too."