Weber State University string students have the chance to teach their art to local youth through the Utah division of the String Project.
The String Project was started by a grant given to the American String Teachers Association that allowed them to create a program that not only teaches young students how to play string instruments but offers college students an opportunity to teach students before graduation.
“It’s a two-fold goal,” Timothy McMurry, the master teacher for the WSU String Project, said. “It’s a way to provide education for the city and also a way to provide a training environment for students heading into the field.”
Teachers for the project are WSU string students who are wanting to get education experience before heading into student teaching and later into music education classrooms.
“Getting an experience like this, where you are in front of kids, where you have a classroom to deal with, you have already had to go through the process of ‘how do I deal with this situation,’” McMurray said. “The idea is they go out of here having had that experience even before student teaching.”
Allison Sawyer, one of the teachers and fourth year pedagogy major, said that the students she teaches aren’t the only ones who benefit from the program.
“I think the best part about this program is it teaches us to teach,” Sawyer said. “As students, we get the opportunity to teach groups of classes before we actually graduate. But then we also have a lot of kids that participate in an affordable program.”
Local youth, from third graders to high school seniors, can participate in the project and learn vital skills involved in performing on a string instrument.
Spencer Howe, one of the teachers and a Music Education major, said that it is important to start young because the instruments take time to master.
“You want to give them a leg up because the instruments take a long time to learn, not just notes and where fingers go, but muscle development takes a long time. That’s why they start them young,” Howe said.
During the course of the class the students will have the opportunity to perform at least twice a year with the possibility of adding more performances if they are available.
McMurray said the students recently performed at a music festival at the Salt Lake City concert center, Abravanel Hall.
While there is a big selection of music to choose from, McMurry said they pick music that is more tailored to the students.
“There is a big spectrum of new music written specifically for this age group and skill level. There are also classics, like Beethoven, that have been arranged for them as well,” McMurray said.
Howe said working with these kids has been a great experience for him as well as the students he teaches.
“I think it’s really fun,” Howe said. “This is one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever had in my life.”