Strings in the schools
August 9, 2005
Mariah Gonzales loved her violin so much that she gave it away.
With the violin was a letter in which the 12-year-old expressed her love.
“The violin you are receiving has been loved by a girl for eight years since she was 4,” she wrote. “In the end she named the violin Mandrin and the bow Bow. … Please care for Mandrin and Bow for they meant very much to me.”
Her violin made it to the right program.
“Strings in the Schools” is a pilot program made available through grant money from the National Endowment for the Arts, Nevada Arts Council, the Sierra Philharmonic League and the Carson City Symphony Association. It will bring violin lessons and music to students free of charge.
And donations like Gonzales’ are critical to the program finding success. While lessons and music are free, instrument rental is not.
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“The cost of rental might even be prohibitive for some people,” said Strings in the Schools violin teacher Sue Kitts. “We want every student who wants to play to be able to.”
Without instruments, students cannot access the increased self-esteem and academic success that studies show music instruction helps reach, according to Elinor Bugli, a violinist with the Carson City Symphony and president of its outreach Association.
“That’s why we’re so grateful to have donated instruments,” said Bugli. “We think it’s really important for kids to have this opportunity.”
She has been trying for some time to get a strings program operating in the schools, but the timing never worked out.
“We think the state capital ought to have a strings program,” she said. “And this year everything came together.”
Kitts, who works at Maytan Music, will be teaching the after-school lessons and will be guiding the after-school orchestra. She said the violin is one of the most expressive instruments out there.
“The violin is so much like the human voice,” she said. “You can do so many things with it. You can be sad, you can be happy, you can express so many different moods with it.”
Although the school district has a band program for its students, band offers instruction in just three classes of the four instruments: brass, percussion and woodwind.
“The band program is excellent,” Kitts said. “But there’s always going to be the student who’s attracted to the violin or the sting family. You want to be able to catch that and build on that interest.”
The program begins the last weekend of August and is open to new and experienced violin students. See the breakout box for more information on days and times.
At the first sessions, Kitts will have her “violinometer” at Seeliger Elementary School, where instruction will be held, to measure the student’s arm arc for the appropriate violin.
“Students need to be sized for the proper violin,” Kitts said. “And you want to make sure you get a good instrument in the hands of these kids. There are some instruments out there that have poor quality.”
The school district has been incredibly supportive of the fledgling program. Former Seeliger principal Laurel Terry was accommodating as is new Seeliger Principal Lee Conley and the school’s music teacher Mary Law.
“I have never seen such positive response to a program,” Kitts said. “When you’ve got the administration behind you, the sky’s the limit.”
The Nevada Arts Council grant is available for up to three years. After that, other money will be need to found. But if people give, like Mariah Gonzales did, the program may take on a life of its own.
“I’m so excited,” Kitts said. “Orchestra meant so much to me growing up. It was my favorite class. I met friends I still keep in touch with. I want all students who want to play the violin to have the same opportunity.”
n Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.
Strings in the Schools
What: After-school violin lessons for beginning students in grades 2-5 and an orchestra for all string students in the Carson City School District.
When: Beginning Violin Lesson Grades 2-3 – Mondays, after school until 4:15 p.m., starting Aug. 29;
Beginning Violin Lessons Grades 4-5 – Wednesdays, after school until 4:15 p.m., starting Aug. 31;
Orchestra, Tier 1 – for all string students with previous experience, Thursdays, after school until 4:15 p.m., starting Sept. 1. Middle school and high school students should arrive at 3 p.m.
Orchestra, Tier 2 – Advanced players, Thursdays 4:15-5:00 p.m., starting Sept. 1. Tier 2 students must also attend Tier 1.
Where: Seeliger Elementary School, 2800 S. Saliman Road
Note: Registration will be held at the above days and times the week of Aug. 29. Parents are strongly encouraged to attend registration. Do not rent or purchase an instrument until after registration. Sponsorships range from $138 to $28 per student per month or $117 to $252 for the school year.
Information: For more information or to donate violins or free rentals to the program or sponsor a student, call Sue Kitts at 267-6924.
Mariah Gonzales put this letter in the case with her violin and bow:
Dear new owner:
This violin you are receiving has been loved by a girl for eight years since she was 4. In the end, she named the violin Mandrin and the bow Bow. You may think that this is stupid, idiotic or some other preferred word, but I think that every instrument with a name should be loved, cared for well and played gently. I wish that Mandrin and Bow should stay together as they were meant to be. Please care for Mandrin and Bow for they meant very much to me. Please keep this violin and bow safe from destruction into a school desk or something. If you should have to pass this violin on to another, please leave this copy of a note or new same-worded copy in the case.
Best and forever regards,