"Nothing is so complicated that it cannot be simplified by hard work."
- Hon. Verne A. Hodge, Founder
In the summer of 1981, Judge Verne A Hodge, then Presiding Judge of the
Territorial Court of the US Virgin Islands set out to change the course of the youth that
were appearing in front of his judicial bench. Using the adage "an ounce of prevention is
worth a pound of cure,"
he began an experimental steel drum program, with the goal of
preventing school dropout and juvenile delinquency among our youth. The program's focus was
to recruit students between the ages of 10 and 18 from public, private, and parochial
schools and help guide them to successfully complete their high school education. The
program that initially started as a summer project became so successful that it was then
made into a year round program, under the name of the Rising Stars Youth Steel Orchestra.
With every program that is started, there are rules and regulations that govern its
operation to make it successful. Rising Stars members are required to comply with the
Rising Stars Rules and Regulations, the Rising Stars Code of Conduct, and the Rising Stars Motto
that places a high priority on educational achievements. Those students who need academic
assistance must attend the weekly Rising Stars Tutorial and Enrichment Program that is, tutorial sessions that
are held in classrooms at the band's headquarters or "The Panyard" as it is affectionately known.
The program also offers assistance in preparation for SAT and other placement tests
for college and university enrollment, including assistance with applications, financial
aid forms and guidance in obtaining scholarships. The success of this program over the
last twenty-four years has produced a 90% graduation rate among its members. Members who
graduate from high school are replaced each year through the orchestra's
Summer Recruitment Program, where members must learn about the history and
development of the steel pan instrument, and are given an introductory course in music
theory, while learning basic pan playing techniques.