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Beginning Strings

strings-in-the-schoolsUntil now, the schools of northern Michigan have been unable to offer a stringed music education program to their children. Parents who wanted their children to learn to play a violin, viola or cello were faced with private lessons as their only option. Private lessons are extremely important to a child’s development but so also are the experiences that can only be offered within an ensemble environment.

The Crooked Tree Youth Orchestra attracted a handful of eager young musicians, but there was no feeder system in place to instruct and recruit new members.  In the year 2000, we launched a strings teaching program in the schools of our region.  Today, a primary objective of the Arts Center is to give every public and private school child a chance to learn to play a stringed instrument… in his or her own school, with instruction provided by CTAC instructors, and in the company of one’s own classmates.

Instruments are available through private sources at very low rental rates, and in cases where families are not able to meet the rental fee, Crooked Tree Arts Center does so through scholarship funds.

The original Beginning Strings Program of the Crooked Tree Arts Center planned to serve about 60 to 70 children. Over 300 chose to participate in the first year. It is impossible for the Arts Center to turn away children who look to the arts for personal growth and self-esteem, so now the schedule is filled within the public and private schools of Emmet and Charlevoix Counties including Beaver Island.

Home-schooled children participate by using the Arts Center for their instruction and rehearsal space. What began as an attempt to reach a few young people who might be interested in playing a stringed instrument has blossomed into a program involving several hundred young people from Petoskey, Harbor Springs, Alanson, Charlevoix, Pellston, Boyne City, East Jordan, Ellsworth, Central Lake, and Beaver Island.

Each May over 300 string students gather on the stage at the Boyne City Performing Arts Center for their annual spring concert. It is always a magical afternoon.   The Crooked Tree Arts Center is very proud of the Beginning Strings Program. It has required the cooperation of the Arts Center, nine school districts, their teachers, their parents, and their children.

Program support is provided by the Gerber Music Education Program, an anonymous gift dedicated to bringing music education to the young people of Charlevoix and Emmet counties. The Crooked Tree Youth Orchestra and the Beginning Strings Program directly benefit from the gift, named in memory of the work of Mrs. Gerber. The success of this program has opened the doors for several other collaborations and art enrichment opportunities for students in Charlevoix and Emmet Counties, provided by the Arts Center and outlined elsewhere on this web site.

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