String Project Marks a Decade of Bringing Music to Local Kids

11/05/2010
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Nov. 14 Concert Benefits Program That Has Taught More Than 1,000 Public School Students

LOWELL, Mass. ߝ The UMass Lowell String Project is celebrating 10 years of making music instruction accessible to local schoolchildren and providing valuable teaching experience to UMass Lowell students. Over the decade, the project has brought more than 1,000 students closer to the arts through teaching them to play stringed instruments and hosting free concerts for the community.

The String Project will mark its anniversary with a benefit concert on Sunday, Nov. 14 in Durgin Concert Hall, located at 35 Wilder St. on UMass Lowell’s South Campus. The String Project, also known as “String Kids,” is the main provider of string instruction to 130 children from the Lowell Public Schools each year, many of whom would not otherwise be able to participate in instrumental music. It also offers UMass Lowell music students a hands-on teaching experience. The Nov. 14 concert will serve as a fundraiser for the program to continue to make it accessible for all.

“Most students are not able to pay the cost of instruction and provide their own instruments, so scholarship support is vital to our program. It means a world of difference to the young students who wish to pursue music but may not have the opportunity to do so,” said UMass Lowell Prof. Kay George Roberts, who founded the acclaimed community-engagement program and serves as its director.

The Nov. 14 concert features not only String Project participants, but also the award-winning Harlem Quartet, a masterful group of young musicians who have performed at the White House and regularly play major concert halls, and appears at this event in arrangement with Sciolino Artist Management. The Harlem Quartet is comprised of first-place laureates of the Sphinx Competition, an annual national competition of junior high, high school and college-age African American and Latino string players.

The Harlem Quartet echoes the mission of the UMass Lowell String Project, which also focuses on advancing diversity in classical music by highlighting works by composers of diverse backgrounds and engaging youths and other new audiences. At the concert, the String Kids will also be joined by the New England Orchestra and the newly formed Lowell Youth Orchestra, also under the direction of Roberts.

For Tammy Record and her 11-year-old daughter Rachel, the String Project has offered the chance to share a unique musical experience. Record is one of two parents who perform with the String Kids. She joined the group on Roberts’ invitation after the director learned that Record wanted to start playing the violin again after many years away from the instrument.

“For me to be able to play [with the String Project] with my daughter is tremendous. It gives us time together we would not have otherwise,” said Record, who added that she can see the program’s positive impact on the other participants. “The benefits the program provides these kids are immeasurable. Music opens doors that students are not able to open on their own.”
 
UMass Lowell alumna Darcie Pickering ’04, one of the first two student instructors in the program 10 years ago, agreed. “It gives students a chance to try something else that’s out there. The younger we can expose them to music instruction, the better,” she said.

Pickering found her experience with the String Project to be a real-life training ground. Today, she teaches string instruments to third-, fourth- and fifth-graders ߝ the same age group she taught through the String Project ߝ in a New York public school system.

“It was very valuable. It gave me a taste of the job I am doing now,” said Pickering, who is among the String Project alumni who will perform at the Nov. 14 concert.

The benefit concert starts at 3 p.m. and will be followed by a VIP reception at UMass Lowell’s historic Allen House. For the general public, admission to the concert is $30 per person. Reservations to both the concert and the reception are $100 per person. UMass Lowell and Middlesex Community College students may attend the concert for free with valid student ID. For details or to register, contact Jacqueline Ledoux at Jacqueline_Ledoux@uml.edu or 978-934-2236.

UMass Lowell, with a national reputation in science, engineering and technology, is committed to educating students for lifelong success in a diverse world and conducting research and outreach activities that sustain the economic, environmental and social health of the region. The university offers its 14,000 students more than 120 degree choices, internships, five-year combined bachelor’s to master’s programs and doctoral studies in the colleges of Arts, Sciences, Engineering and Management, the School of Health and Environment, and the Graduate School of Education. www.uml.edu

For more information, contact media@uml.edu or 978-934-3224