“When love is deep, much can be accomplished.” – Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, Japanese violinist, educator and philosopher.
The Athens City Schools Foundation Third Grade Violin Program was established in 1997 in partnership with the Symphony School of the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra. The Symphony School provides quality musical instruction in orchestral strings. They strive to remove learning obstacles and encourage schools in North Alabama to establish string education curricula.
Although ACS has long supported music education, instrumental programming is not available in the elementary schools. Most public school students rarely have the opportunity to touch, much less learn to play, a string instrument.
The violin program allows students of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds to receive training from highly skilled members of the HSO School. Additionally, they are involved in performances and orchestral field trips.
Research suggests school and community based music instruction have an impact on brain functioning and could possibly make a significant difference in academic trajectory. In particular, lower income students typically have less access to music education programs. This program meets a great need in our system.
The program benefits our students in ways beyond simply teaching the students how to play. They learn to succeed in a collaborative environment at the highest level. Confidence and self-worth is built. They are encouraged to recognize they exist as an important piece of a bigger picture. Each area is crucial to developing healthy children who will contribute to the future of our community.
Brookhill Elementary Principal Phillip Jarmon shared his perspective regarding the positive effects of the program. “Learning an instrument such as the violin teaches the kids about discipline and delayed gratification,” said Jarmon. “The violin, for example, has a steep learning curve. Before you can make a single sound, you must first learn how to hold the violin, how to hold the bow, and where to place your feet. It teaches students perseverance. We love it!”
Every third grader participates in ten class violin lessons. Symphony School instructors work with each classroom within a school. The Symphony School provides the teachers, materials and violins. By the end of the four-week session, they can perform a Twinkle Twinkle Little Star variation and have developed an excellent foundation in violin playing.
The Suzuki Method is the chosen teaching style. This philosophy of teaching is easy to grasp and enables students to learn quickly. Free from the intimidation of learning notes, it is a rote process that does not alienate anyone based on ability. It has the added benefit of making learning lots of fun.
The emphasis of the Suzuki Method is on the development of the whole child, on education, through music. By lesson four, students are playing real violins. In a short period of time, students learn to handle and position the violin and bow. By the end, each student can properly play. Their confidence is built one draw of the bow at a time.
The HSO is the oldest, continuously operating professional orchestra in the state of Alabama. Their enthusiasm about the program is evident. Sharon Hicks is the Director of Education for the Symphony School. “I just fell in love with the program. You never know who or how a child will be encouraged through this wonderful exposure,” said Hicks. “When the children get the violins for the first time their faces light up. It’s tremendous.”
Suzuki once said, “Teaching music is not my purpose. I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline and endurance. They get a beautiful heart. Every child is talented. Any child who is properly trained can develop musical ability. The potential of every child is unlimited.”
We whole-heartedly agree.
Huntsville Symphony Orchestra Field Trip
Thanks to the support of the Athens City Schools Foundation, every third-grade student participates in a violin program during the school year. Each spring, following the completion of the classes at the schools, fourth grade students that learned to play in the third grade get to attend a performance of the Huntsville Symphony at the Mark C. Smith Concert Hall at the Von Braun Center. This experience allows the students to see the beauty of combining the various instruments and have a first-hand experience attending a fine arts performance.
They get all dressed up, attend the beautiful performance and then get to go out for a fun lunch before returning to school. This is a fun, enriching experience for students that would not be possible without the support of the Athens City Schools Foundation. Our system is truly grateful for the foundation and their support of this program and many others.