|Ruby Epstein, 4, of Durango,
carefully removes her violin from its case as Monday’s
Kids With Strings Attached class
gets under way at Fort Lewis College. Ruby is one
of 13 local children in the program, which teaches
to play violin. The five-day class, part of the
Conservatory Music in the Mountains, culminates
with a concert Saturday
at the DMR tent./Photo by Todd Newcomer.
When violin instructor
Linda Clark tells her students to take it from the beginning,
she means it quite literally.
"Everyone, take your violins out of your cases," she instructs a class
of never-evers, ranging in age from 4 to 9. She then asks them to come
up, one by one, to the piano where she is sitting to have their tiny
It's hard to imagine that in five days these students will have gone
from learning the ropes of the "resting position" to playing in front
of an audience at the Music in the Mountains tent at Durango Mountain
Resort. But that is exactly the goal of Kids With Strings Attached,
an intensive five-day program that introduces young, local would-be
violinists and their parents to the world of musical performance. Clark
said the group of 13 students is divided into two groups, those with
a little experience and those with none at all.
"We've got kids who have never even held a violin before and those
who've had experience, but no private lessons," she said.
The program is part of the Conservatory Music in the Mountains, a program
for younger musicians done in conjunction with the New Conservatory
of Music in Dallas and Durango's annual classical music festival, Music
in the Mountains. Under the direction of Arkady Fomin, the 8-year-old
Conservatory program draws more than 150 college and pre-college aged
violin and piano players from across the country to Fort Lewis College
each summer. Throughout the program's three-week run, Conservatory students
play concerts at FLC's Roshong Recital Hall as well as a free one Saturday,
July 31, with the Kids With Strings students at the tent at DMR.
Oneida Cramer, special projects coordinator for the New Conservatory
of Dallas, said Saturday's finale concert typically is the first time
the Kids With Strings participants perform in a public setting.
"This is their first exposure to performing," she said. "Just getting
them here is a big deal."
|Kids With Strings Attached instructor
Clark teaches one of her classes the proper
form for holding a bow./Photo by Todd
Clark, a freelance musician from Salt Lake City who leads the weeklong
program, has played with Music in the Mountains since it started in
1987 and likewise has been with Kids With Strings since its inception
four years ago. She said the goal of the program is to get children
interested in violin at a young age, through learning, performing and
"Our goal is to spark an interest in violin and music," she said.
She said Kids With Strings is unique in that it uses the Suzuki discipline
of teaching, which relies heavily on repetition, memorization and parental
involvement. It is based on the methods of the late Japanese violinist
Shinichi Suzuki, who believed that much as children learn to speak in
their native tongue via repetition, the also can learn music by listening
and repeating what they hear. Suzuki was adamant that students go on
to learn to read music only after they have mastered some technique
on their instrument.
"A lot of times, it's just easier to repeat the music," said Clark.
Indeed, in the 30 or so minutes a day Clark is allotted with the
more advanced of her 13 students, she has them mimicking
in sync a tune she has taught them via repetition. She said such advancement
takes place on an even greater scale over the course of the week, not
to mention years for some of the students who return to the Conservatory
"It's fun to see how much these kids progress year after year," she
|Conservatory Music in the Mountains
student Matthew Sato, 13, of Schaumbu,
Ill., performs Vivaldi’s “Concerto in
F Minor (Winter)” on Monday in the
Roshong Recital Hall. Taking in daily afternoon concerts
is part of the Kids
With Strings Attached program, which is meant to
foster musicianship as well
as music appreciation./Photo by Todd Newcomer
Cramer, with the Dallas Conservatory, also said she is surprised at
how quickly the Kids With Strings students advance. "They go in and
see what they can do in a week," she said. "It's been pretty amazing
in the past what they can do."
Although Clark said beginning students must possess an initial interest
in order to get started, parental participation is crucial in getting
students to stick with the program.
"You need a lot of parental involvement," she said.
In fact, parents are not only encouraged to attend the afternoon classes
with their child, but the Conservatory's subsequent daily recitals as
well. The purpose of having the fledgling students attend the afternoon
recitals is to give them a taste of the big picture and get them used
to the idea of performing.
"It gives them an overview of the whole process," said Cramer.
Mary Nowotny, spokeswoman for Music in the Mountains, said the Kids
With Strings program is also intended to foster not only tomorrow's
musicians but tomorrow's music lovers, as well.
"What we're creating here is a new generation of performers as well
as concertgoers," she said.
James, 5, of Durango, watches a classmate intently
while working on the
proper placement of her violin./Photo by
However, Nowotny said the true beauty of Kids With Strings is that
it is integrated into the larger Music in the Mountains festival.
"What's really nice is that you get everything from a kid that has
never done any performing up to the Festival Orchestra - the professionals," she
Cramer said it is this experience that she hopes will light a fire
under the aspiring musicians.
"The idea is to get them excited and get them started," she said. "Then
they will come back and move up. And hopefully it goes on from there."
For more information on Music in the Mountain
Festival and Conservatory concerts, see this week's "On the Town," pages
22-24 or visit www.musicinthemountians.com.