EL PASO, Texas -

A new school year gives students the opportunity to try new things, including music and fine arts.

At the El Paso Independent School District, students in fifth grade can begin exploring their talents.

Fine arts director Michael Phillips said EPISD rents out more than 12,000 instruments to students.

Six district employees spend the entire school year maintaining, repairing and cleaning the instruments at EPISD's repair shop.

"These gentlemen are craftsmen. Two of them have been with the district over 30 years and started with the district as student interns," Phillips said.

Phillips said it would be difficult to find replacements because what they do is an art.

"You have to be able to understand the nature and the physics of sound," Phillips said.

The district provides string, wind, percussion and brass instruments for elementary, middle and high schools.

Classes offered begin in elementary schools with general music and orchestra for fifth-graders. In middle schools, students can enroll in band, orchestra or choir.

"We average about 50 repairs a week," Phillips said.

Through EPISD's rental program, parents pay a $45 fee for any instrument for the entire year.

"It's a huge savings to our parents and our students," said Phillips.

Renting is likely the best option for first-time musicians who do not have experience.

"You want to make sure they parents have that commitment from their student before they purchase an instrument," Phillips said.

EPISD does not sell its instruments, but parents can consider a rent-to-own option from local music stores.

Parents can save additional money when renting through EPISD when it comes to repairs.

"Depending on the nature of the damage, it will be repaired at no cost," said Phillips.

If the damage is a result of negligence, then parents will have to pay for the repair. Parents and students are required to sign a responsibility card for the instrument that is rented.

Phillips is proud of the fine arts department at EPISD.

"In other parts of the country the fine arts are diminishing, at EPISD, that's not the case." Phillips said.

He added the fine arts programs are strong and growing after the board of trustees approved about 20 fine arts positions for elementary schools.

"You have a gamut of opportunities if you're a student that comes to EPISD and enrolled in fine arts," Phillips said.