Welcome To 
Smithson Valley

Home Of The


 Director - Richard Helsley

Contact Information

email: richard.helsley@comalisd.org 

TWITTER @HelsleyRichard

THE SVHS Ranger Orchestra is currently in it's second year.   We made great strides in our 17-18 debut year and have continued the journey of building traditions and a legacy as a SUPERIOR HIGH SCHOOL ORCHESTRA.

The SVHS Orchestra has approximately 60 students in the 18-19 and we're projecting an enrollment of approximately 90 students in the 19-20 school year.  We have an active board of student officers that work with our newly formed Orchestra Parent Booster Club to organize our social events throughout the year. 
Our goal is to generate a feeling of unity and teamwork                                                                  through our learning, fun, and success.

This year we were extremely excited to debut  our commissioned string orchestra work by renowned composer Kirt Mosier and to perform a live production of "West Side Story" along with our SVHS theater, choir, band, and dance programs.  Next year we are planning a trip to 
NEW YORK to perform and sight see.   

We are currently recruiting new members for the 19-20 school year.  The SVHS Orchestra is OPEN TO ALL STUDENTS enrolled in Smithson Valley High School.
  • Any student with prior experience on VIOLIN, VIOLA, CELLO or DOUBLE BASS will be placed in one of our upper level orchestra classes based on an interview & simple audition with the orchestra director.
  • The NEW BEGINNING ORCHESTRA FOR 19-20 is open to any student that has never played a stringed instrument before.  This class does not require any prior musical experience however it is also a fun elective for experienced musicians and singers that are interested in learning a secondary instrument.
  • You will need an instrument – we suggest that you secure your own instrument either through purchase or rental. There are some school rental instruments available on a first come first serve basisTake a look at the required supply list under our RESOURCES tab for more information.
  • DON'T BUY YOUR INSTRUMENT ONLINE.  Get your instrument from a specialty store – there are several in our area.

-      Duckworth Violins – is located in downtown New Braunfels

-       Terra Nova Violins & Antonio Strad Violin Shop  are both located in San Antonio.

Thank you for visiting our SVHS ORCHESTRA website.  We hope to see you in one of our orchestra classes next year or in person at one of our performances or competitions throughout the year.  Please stay tuned for more additions to our calendar and journey.  Specific information about calendar dates as well as specific information for orchestra parents and students can be found on the other pages of this site.

About the Director


Richard Helsley holds a Bachelor of Music Studies degree and All Level Teacher Certification earned from The University of Texas at San Antonio.  He has a total of 18 years teaching experience with his first 3 years as an elementary music teacher at Bill Brown Elementary in Comal ISD followed by 13 years as Director of Orchestras in Judson ISD teaching violin, viola, cello, and bass at both Woodlake Hills Middle School and Judson High School. 

Mr. Helsley and the JHS Orchestras accumulated a number of awards and recognitions over the years.  Those include six consecutive years of Superior ratings at the annual UIL competitions, “Superior” ratings, “Best in Class”, and “Best Overall Orchestra” awards in the Alamo Showcase of Music, Gulf Coast Showcase of Music, and Space City Showcase of Music festivals, and a very proud 4th place finish in the National Orchestra Finals held in New York, New York.

That tradition of success followed Mr. Helsley when he came back to Comal ISD to help develop the brand new orchestra programs at Canyon and Church Hill Middle Schools in 2015.  The following year Mr. Helsley moved to his current position as Director of Orchestras at Smithson Valley Middle School where he led that program to two consecutive years of "Sweepstakes" ratings in the annual UIL competitions, along with "Superior" ratings, "Best In Class", and "Best Overall Orchestra" awards at the Directors Choice Showcase of Music - Houston festival in 2017. Mr. Helsley and the SVMS Orchestra also performed, by special invitation, for the Texas State Board of Education general quarterly meeting in 2017.  

In the 2017-2018 school year Mr. Helsley's duties were expanded to include the implementation of the first ever orchestra program at Smithson Valley High School.  Now in it's second year of existence the SVHS Orchestra has doubled in size under Mr. Helsley's direction and looks forward to starting a tradition of success for itself.

As with all music educators, Richard’s career began long before his first teaching job.  He started learning to play “Texas Style” folk fiddling at 9 years of age and for many of the following years traveled throughout the United States competing in fiddling competitions.  During this time Richard earned the titles of Texas Junior State Champion at the Fiddlers Frolics in Hallettsville, Texas and in 1994 took top honors in the National Fiddling Championship in Winfield, Kansas.

The natural transition from a competitive musician to a professional performer led Richard to perform in numerous bands, shows, and orchestras throughout his career.  His first professional performance job came as a junior in high school.  Soon after graduating from Canyon High School he took a job touring with Country Music legend Johnny Bush.  In 1992 he began performing at Fiesta Texas and for the next six years appeared in several of the parks Country Music and Broadway style variety shows.  In 1992 he also began touring the United States, Canada, and Europe with “The Ambassador of Western Swing”, Billy Mata and The Texas Tradition. Richard held his position as fiddle player, harmony vocalist, and co-music producer with this retro Country and Western Swing music act for the next 26 years.

During his tenure as a professional musician Richard also had the opportunity to perform on stage with many other well-known artists.  He spent a summer performing as a Lazy B Wrangler at the Lazy B Chuck Wagon and Dinner Theater in Estes Park, Colorado, and has performed with the Abilene, Victoria, and Laredo Symphony Orchestras. He is currently a recording studio fiddle, violin, and viola player as well as string orchestra arranger for BGM Productions in San Antonio. 

In addition to his life as a professional music educator and musician, Richard has a very musical family.  His wife Karen Helsley is the orchestra director at Church Hill Middle School in Comal ISD and his son and daughter both play in the New Braunfels High School band program.  His son Regan is in the 11th grade and plays trumpet, and his daughter Savannah is in the 9th grade and is a clarinet player. Mr. Helsley considers it an honor and privilege to be given the opportunity to share his knowledge, experiences, and passion for string instrumental music with younger generations.