Whether they are playing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or the “Rocky” theme song, the NKU String Project is gaining momentum, making string lessons affordable to people in the community, as well as offering valuable teaching experience to undergraduates in the music program.
The NKU String Project came to campus in 2012 as part of the National String Project Consortium. It is part of an effort to offer string-music lessons at affordable prices for everyone in the community.
Co-founder and Director of the NKU String Project Amy Gillingham said this project will bring more attention and students to the music program.
“It is extremely affordable,” GIllingham said. “We offer classes starting at $110 a semester. This rounds out to be about $2 a class.”
In comparison, most classes outside of this program are about $300 and private lessons are about $20-30 per half-hour session.
Gillingham said there are not very many opportunities to learn string music in this area, so she is proud of what they are doing with the String Project.
“I just love seeing the kids get so excited about what they are doing,” Gillingham said. “I love it when they come up to me and tell me that they are going to play something we taught them for their school or that they are excited to play songs for their grandparents. It’s really great to see not only them coming a long way and learning, but being really excited about what they’re doing.”
The children enrolled in the program play classical concerts, but they also participate in the Out of the Box Concert Series. These shows are more collaborative and feature different types of environments and music.
“One time, the kids played the ‘Rocky’ theme song for a race around the time President Mearns came to campus,” Gillingham said.
Most people think of first and second year string players as only being able to play certain songs and not being able to play a lot of variety, according to Gillingham.
“That’s not the case with our kids, they know how to play a lot,” she said.
The String Project also offers classes for adults. Laura Klein, an adult class master teacher, has 11 adults in her class right now and believes that number will soon grow.
“I enjoy watching entire families learn together,” Klein said. “Several adult students have children in the program as well.”
The String Project also benefits students enrolled in the music program at NKU as well.
“The mission is to give string students experience as teachers,” Klein said.
Klein said that student assistants make progress because they have gained experience in a well-supervised environment.
Right now, there are six paid, undergraduate teaching assistants to help out with lessons. According to Gillingham, these undergraduate assistantships put NKU students ahead of the game in their future careers.
“Often times, teaching assistantships aren’t offered in undergraduate study. They are only offered in graduate programs,” she said.
“Where in some programs graduate students come out with one semester of teaching experience, there is an opportunity for our students to have four years of teaching experience by the time they graduate,” Gillingham said.
“There are very few places in this country that have this program,” Klein said. “This gives people opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise have.”
Robelle Sahle is a junior music performance major that has a teaching assistantship with the program. He calls himself the “posture police.”
“I make sure that the students are in the right posture, using the correct techniques and playing the right notes,” Sahle said.
“As soon as I heard about the String Project I knew I had to be a part of it,” Sahle said. “It is such a big thing and is a phenomenal opportunity.”
Sahle said he has never heard of an undergraduate getting a teaching assistantship before the project.
“As a performance major, it is awesome to be a part of something that is not just my major,” Sahle said. “Music education is so important, as well.”
The NKU String Project will be performing with bluegrass group Harpeth Rising and the NKU Choir on March 5 at 7:30 p.m. in Greaves Concert Hall. For more information, visit the String Project’s site: www.musicprep.nku.edu/stringproject.html