A small hand tightly grips the oversized bow and repositions the huge violin under a swallowed chin. She draws her bow in time with her fellow classmates, eliciting a buzzing concert G. Although the note might not belong in the New York Philharmonic or the London Symphony Orchestra, it is music to the ears of junior Andrew Israel.
Each week, 85 elementary school children come to the School of Music to take part in the Missouri String Project, a program where music majors like Israel give lessons and conduct orchestras at a minimal fee. The purpose of the program is to begin to build a foundation of music in kids at a young age, Israel said.
“We teach them a different language in a sense and expose them to music and world culture,” Israel said. “We teach a lot of technique —- how to bow, how to hold the violin and how to form notes. By their third year, they get involved in the orchestra.”
In its 37th year, the string project not only benefits children in the community, but also serves to prepare and educate graduate and undergraduate students. Teaching assistant Amanda Fenton said the course is helpful because it provides opportunities to gain real-world teaching experience.
“As a musician, even if you’re a performance major, you’re likely to teach a lot in your career,” Fenton said. “Most want to, and it’s good opportunity to gain experience teaching young students who are just beginning on their instrument and seeing how they develop musically through the first three years of their study.”
Junior Briana Bassman began working with Israel and Fenton this September when her teacher recommended her for the program. Since then, teaching music has opened her eyes to the possibility of continuing to do so in the future, she said.
“Even though I’m a performance major, I will probably do this privately and maybe even publicly,” Bassman said. “I still haven’t decided. Being with these kids has made me see teaching as an option.”
In addition to improving her own educational experience, Bassman said she enjoys recognizing the impact her involvement has on her students’ lives.
“I’d taught privately before and I really like kids, so bringing music into their lives is really important to me,” Bassman said. “If we didn’t do this, they wouldn’t get to start learning until the sixth grade. It’s nice to know that I’m one of the reasons they are ahead now and hooked on music.”
Megan Mozingo, 8, is one of Bassman’s first year viola students. She began playing only a few months ago and has since fallen in love with the instrument and the instructors, she said.
“I like the sound and I like learning the notes,” Mozingo said. “Ms. Briana is my favorite teacher because she’s really nice.”
Fellow classmate Ava Gorham, 8, plays the violin and enjoys the program because she is able to befriend other musicians, she said.
“I was really excited to play an instrument and I couldn’t think of any other I liked besides the violin,” Gorham said. “My favorite part is getting to see the people and make new friends.”