Bringing string music education to rural southwest Virginia
Many public school divisions throughout Virginia have orchestra programs, but not in rural southwest Virginia.
There is, however, a program in the New River Valley, where music students at Virginia Tech help teach children to play classical string music.
On a recent Thursday evening, 20 3rd and 4th graders run through songs they’ll perform on stage.
They’ve already played in front of grown-ups a couple of times, and 10-year-old Corbin Surface, who plays bass, is ready.
“I’m just excited, "Corbin said. "I’m not nervous because I’ve been on the stage before."
This is the 15th year the Virginia Tech String project has existed in Blacksburg— one of 39 similar youth programs across the country, called the National String Project Consortium.
The classes are taught in part by music students at Virginia Tech, and many go on to become music teachers after they graduate.
At their spring recital, beginners like Corbin will join advanced students, like 16-year-old Greg Driscoll. “Having everybody from all the classes there…it’s exciting,” whispered Greg, who plays the cello. “It never gets easier though. I’m still nervous every time I play on stage.”
This is Greg’s eighth year playing in the string project.
“It’s fundamentally changed Greg’s life,” said his mother, Elle Driscoll-Miller. She said in third grade, Greg was struggling in school. “And then the cello came into his life,” said Driscoll-Miller. She noticed her son's confidence and ability to focus improved. “I think cello gave me something to think about,” Greg said.
Corbin and his parents have also noticed a change since he’s started playing. “It is a stress reliever for me,” Corbin said.
He said he wanted to learn to play after a violinist from the string project came to his school, last fall.
“I made my decision at the school. And then I told mommy and daddy that I wanted to do it,” Corbin said.
“It’s a gift that will be with him the rest of his life,” his dad, J.T Surface said. “Without the string project, I don’t know how much longer it would have taken him to find that spark.”
Students from the Virginia Tech String Project will perform a spring recital this Thursday at 7 pm at the Moss Arts Center in Blacksburg.