HOUSTON A beloved high school orchestra director is putting down the baton after more than three decades in the classroom. She would love to keep going, but her failing eyesight is holding her back.

It s fifth period at Bellaire High School, and the dull roar of students rushing to class gradually gives way to harmony.

In Dr. Kathryn Brown s orchestra class, the beauty lies in the ears of the beholder and in the hands of its creator, but the class is about more than music.

Well, I like to say that my mission has been to help students become responsible, caring and trustworthy adults, said Brown.

For 35 years, all but four of them at HISD, she s taught thousands of students. Among them is Chinyere Stallworth, who graduates this year.

I learn life lessons in here, said Stallworth, to give my best all the time, and no matter what I do, it should be good for others. She s taught me so much, and I ve developed a lot under her.

After thousands of students and hundreds of concerts, Brown is facing a milestone. When she takes to the stage to conduct a concert at the end of the school year, it will be her last. You see, her vision is getting worse.

It s beginning to go, said Brown. But I m fortunate. My doctor has been saying for the last 15 years that any day, I need to be ready to retire because I may have to.

I think she deserves a break after so many years of teaching and dealing with all of us for years, said Stallworth, So I m sad, but I m kind of happy for her.

More than anything, she says she s grateful for the lessons she will carry with her for the rest of her life.

Working together as a group, and always striving for excellence no matter what you do, said Brown.

Once retired, Brown says she will continue to give private lessons and substitute at the school. Her final performance as conductor is Thursday, May 30, in the school auditorium.

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