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High Mountain Strings

McCall Music Society

High Mountain Strings was established in 2016 by the McCall Music Society to meet a need in our community for violin and cello lessons. There was not previously a developed lesson program for children interested in learning to play violin. Over the past six years, demand for our program has grown to include 45 elementary and middle school aged students, and cello and viola students in addition to violin students.

Each week, an instructor travels to McCall from Boise to teach after-school lessons at Barbara Morgan Elementary School. Families can rent musical instruments through MMS for a low rate of $15 per month. The program owns 44 violins, 21 cellos, and 2 violas for rent to students. In 2019, McCall Music Society received a grant designed to expand the instrument offerings to include cellos and violas. MMS also offers scholarships to participating families to ease the financial burden, hoping to encourage continued participation for many years.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

To perform music alone or with others, with expression and technical accuracy, and appropriate interpretation.

High Mountain Strings students take weekly lessons from a professional orchestral musician experienced in youth music education. From early lessons, students are taught to perform the new skills they recently mastered in front of small audiences twice a year. Students take lessons and perform in small groups of 3-5 children.

High Mountain Strings is a feeder-program for the Music Society’s Youth Orchestra. This invite-only youth group is the appropriate advancement of technical skills and concert performance for youngsters in our program. The McCall Youth Orchestra provides students first experience performing in a large orchestra setting.

At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:

High Mountain Strings graduates now hold the first and second chair positions within the local Middle School Orchestra. These students are well-trained and equipped to assist their peers during lessons. High Mountain Strings students are leading other youth who are newer to the musical world of practice and performance.

One seventh grade female student who has been a participant of High Mountain Strings lessons for nearly 5 years, now leads the Middle School Orchestra as first-chair violin with a steady rhythm and efficient musical leadership. She attributes her comfort in front of an audience to performing in small groups as a second and third grader.

“This young lady mentioned how her practice schedule and prior preparation directly influenced her performance when concert time came. She says that learning to practice and play the violin taught her how to keep going when she misses a beat or plays the wrong note. Playing the violin has taught me to just keep going no matter what.”

Impact

The High Mountain Strings Program provides the fundamentals of playing an instrument to elementary school students preparing them for further musical education later in life. The McCall Music Society owns and rents many of the instruments used by local children to families at discounted rates. For our rural mountain community, The High Mountain Strings program provides opportunities for students who would otherwise be unable to access focused musical programming and exposes them to new instruments in a low barrier environment. By providing access to the instruments through our rental program, this eases the financial burden on families and allows students to try many different instruments before choosing one.

Reflection

High Mountain Strings is most successful when operated directly after school, and inside the school’s music rooms. This is the most efficient way for families to provide after-school lessons for their young children. It eases the burden of transportation and after-school childcare for working families, leveling out access across all socio-economic demographics in our community.

Looking into the future, we see that transportation and child-care are the top elements affecting participation in violin and cello lessons. Knowing this now, our goal is to expand High Mountain Strings to other local elementary schools in our school district, including Donnelly Elementary School, and possibly Crestline Academy in the future.

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