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When he was in the sixth grade, McKay Clark’s mother Kelly insisted he try almost any instrument for at least a year.  

 “I told him that he could not pick the tuba, as I wasn’t going to haul that big thing around all over the place.”  

 McKay was excited when he came home the next day, telling his mother he had decided to play the upright bass. “Obviously, I forget to mention to not pick that one too,” recalls Kelly with a laugh. McKay says he “liked that there was just one, and just how different it was.” 

 His fascination soon turned into a passion, and for the last seven years the Clarks have carried the large string instrument around the country in pursuit of McKay’s dream to one day become a professional musician. That dream is even closer to becoming reality, as McKay graduated from Arkansas Virtual Academy (ARVA) this spring and earned a full orchestra scholarship to Oklahoma City University (OKCU).  

 Before enrolling at ARVA for his senior year, McKay attended local brick and mortar schools, but by his junior year, he wanted to dedicate himself fully to music, and asked his mother to find him an alternative way to complete high school in order to do so.  

 The family arrived at ARVA last year, which allowed McKay to balance a full course load with an increasingly demanding rehearsal and performance schedule. Kelly says “it was the perfect fit for him and for me as his Learning Coach.  We both had the support we needed to make his senior year a success.” 

 By attending ARVA, McKay was able to play bass more than ever, including with the local Bentonville High School (BHS) and with two elite orchestras: Arkansas All-State Student Orchestra and the University of Arkansas Symphony, where he was the only high school student invited to play. He would attend his ARVA classes from his laptop while on the U of A campus, giving him a preview of college life.  

 McKay was invited to audition for OKCU’s orchestra scholarship. Of approximately 100 bass players from around the world, McKay was one of only four chosen to join the orchestra. He plans to pursue a music performance degree, and wants to someday play for shows on Broadway. “None of that would have been possible if it weren’t for ARVA being so flexible.” 

Says Kelly, “ARVA saved our son, literally. We wished we had enrolled him in ARVA years ago. It freed him up to be more of himself, work at a pace and schedule that suited him better, and he was able pursue the avenues that made him happy.  We can’t recommend K12 and ARVA enough.”

About The Author

Emily Riordan

Emily Riordan joined Stride as Senior Manager, Corporate Communications in July 2017. Prior to joining the team, Emily was a founding staff member at the U.S. Green Building Council’s Center for Green Schools, working with school stakeholders across the country to advocate for healthy, safe and sustainable schools. Emily has also worked with the District of Columbia charter school movement, assisting with charter applications, development and advocacy efforts. Originally from a small town in Massachusetts, Emily has lived in the DC area for half her life, having earned her bachelor’s degree in English at the George Washington University in 2004.

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