STRING PROJECT

08/02/2007
By Used with permission from the Lowell Sun Online.

By STEPHANIE COYNE

LOWELL Jonathan Asigri stood proudly upon the stage with his crisp, white-linen shirt and his black bowtie tucked neatly around his collar.

His shoes were shined to perfection, and his brown eyes sparkled as he projected the confidence of a veteran performer.

Then, with no further ado, he picked up his violin and bowed a traditional rendition of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," which was followed by thunderous applause.

Jonathan, a third-grade student at the McAuliffe School in Lowell, was one of 60 children taking part in the University of Massachusetts Lowell String Project, which held its winter concert yesterday.

The String Project, a collaboration between Lowell public schools and the university, is designed to introduce string instruments to students in elementary school, increase diversity among students studying classical music, and apply the children's enthusiasm to an instrument.

Ninety-five musicians took to the stage in Durgin Hall yesterday to display their talents with the likes of "Rolling Along" (also known as "Mary Had A Little Lamb") "Bingo," "Happy Birthday" and "Kookaburra," an Australian folk song.

Robin and Kevin Hall of Lowell grabbed a couple of front-row balcony seats and set up shop to videotape their daughter as she performed in her second year with the string project.

Ten-year-old Alyson Hall, a student at Lowell's McDonough City Magnet School, played the violin along with her 8-year-old cousin, Jeremy Hall, of Lowell, also a budding violinist.

"What is great is, she is learning how to read music as well as how to play it, and it is a great way to get kids together from all the different schools and share an interest in music," Robin Hall said. "This program should have happened a long time ago."

The project, in its second year, introduces children in third through fifth grades to the viola, violin and cello, by using their fingers, known as pizzicato, and also by utilizing a bow, known as arco.

The students come twice a week to the university, where they are instructed by members of the university's music department and student teachers.

The only downside to yesterday's concert was the cancellation of the guest artist, Diane Monroe, who was unable to attend the event due to a bout with bronchitis.

But the show went on as UMass Lowell's Dr. Gena Greher, an assistant professor of music education, Darcie Pickering, a student teacher, and Matt Bilz, a creative-sound play teacher, took to the stage with an improv jam session of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," much to the delight of Jonathan, who declared that to be his favorite song of the day.

"I love playing that song," he said. "But I can't wait to learn Beethoven. We have it in our lesson books, you know."