by Carole Gatwood

I am a cellist in the Detroit Symphony with a volunteer project that I'd like to share with ICS readers. Once a year, I get together with one or two other string players and we go into our local elementary schools and demonstrate our instruments to the entire third grade class. Sometimes we have a cello, viola, and bass, sometimes three cellos. We discuss particular points and play some music, both alone and together. We approach this from a broad range of angles in the hopes of sparking interest and appreciation in as many kids as possible: the science of our tools/instruments, spelling, foreign language, the feel of horse hair, recognizable themes, and a little humor and weird sounds!

In light of all the brain research that has recently been published, which connects music study with higher test scores/SATs, complex thinking skills, visual-spatial skills, etc., and the endorsement from the business community of the specific skills that an arts education builds (see Business Week 10/28/96 "Educating for the Workplace through the Arts"), one can see the importance of inspiring young potential string players. By exposing them to cello playing up close, we can help to develop in them a respect for the arts, build future audiences, and open the door to some for their own musical journeys.

In case there are some of you who have wanted to take your instrument into schools but weren't sure how to go about it, here is a detailed outline of how one might go about doing a demo for kids:



I prepared a one-page handout for the teachers to send home with each child after school which includes a short letter of introduction, informing the parents that we played our instruments for their children today. Sprinkled around a cello picture in the center are the following snippets:

In the Classroom

  1. Briefly introduce yourselves, telling where you live, what orchestra you play in.

  2. Introduce the Instrument(s)

  3. Parts of the Cello


An interesting variation occurred the time I brought my 4-year-old who takes Suzuki violin. This shows clearly the positive impact kids can have on peers. My son played just one song at the end of our program. After that, questions were about him: "How many songs does he know? ... How long has he been playing? ... Can he play another one? ... How old is he? ... When did he start? ... Where can I take lessons?(!!!)"

My hope, in writing this article, is that it might inspire some of you to do the same. I would also be interested to read about others' experiences in this subject and welcome the input of string teachers concerning how best to support string programs. I'm always looking for new ideas.

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