Originally posted on the-standard.org on Feb. 2, 2016. Photo by Ryan Welch.
Since 2005, the Missouri State music department has provided students with the opportunity to kick-start early developmental skills of playing a string instrument in children in first to fourth grade.
The String Project offers college students a chance to teach children how to play the viola, violin or cello for $80 per-semester.
The purpose is to allow children the chance to practice at an earlier age than what public school systems can give them. By getting a feel for their instrument before fifth grade, the marker at which kids begin to play at a public school, children could gain a better understanding of their instrument.
Co-founder of the program, music professor Dr. David Hays, said when the idea first arose, there was a need for education in string instruments.
“There was a national push for string projects coming out of American String Teachers Association and the association was encouraging universities like ours to open string projects,” Hays said.
Because of the requirements listed by the association, the university could not commit. However, this factor didn’t deter Hays and co-founder graduate student Elizabeth Johnston from making the project happen anyway.
“We saw a student who had been playing a long time but didn’t have much to show for it in terms of technique and the teacher of that pupil said, ‘Well, what do I need to do to get my kids in your program?” Hays said. “And we said, ‘We need to do something to pump up what’s going on with our local students.”
Since then, the first location of lessons, Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts, has expanded to two other locations: Pershing Elementary School and Rountree Elementary School. These locations are divided into levels of expertise; typically, if children have already had a year of experience, they practice at Juanita K.
The kids are taught under a paid student teacher on Mondays and Wednesdays. The student teacher is then supervised by a professional.
Student teacher of the Juanita K. location junior broadcast journalism major Kathryn Eutsler is on her second year of teaching and believes the project not only allows children to build up desirable quality traits but also opens doors to their future.
“I think music is one of the best things you can teach your kids because it helps them be hardworking and diligent, and it also opens up so many opportunities later in life,” Eutsler said.
The students Eutsler teaches are usually more experienced in their knowledge of their instruments. She said her class of 10 typically focuses on a variety of skills in preparation for their performance at the end of the semester.
“In a general sense, playing as a group, because we’re getting ready to play as an orchestra,” Eutsler said. “Otherwise, we kind of follow how the kids are doing so note reading and sight-reading.”