Concert supports youth strings
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:48 PM
"One-hundred hands will reach for stringed instruments. Violins will be tucked under chins, and cellos firmly planted. And 50 bows will be poised for the First All-Island Youth Strings Concert, 7 p.m. May 10 at the Sakai Intermediate School gym. That instant will bring past, present and future together - the cumulative total of thousands of hours of practice over the years on the part of the students; months of organization by the adults; and their collective vision of an orchestra program in the Bainbridge schools.We want to keep the backbone of music education in the school, where it belongs, private music teacher and parent Allison LeGendre said. It belongs there for maximum exposure.LeGendre helped form the Orchestra Support Committee this year. The group organized this Thursday's concert - which, besides being a musical treat, is a public statement in support of an expanded school district orchestra program.LeGendre, percussionist John Lester and the rest of the parent-run Orchestra Support Committee want to start an orchestra program for the lower grades as well as high school. They hope to hire a full-time string teacher who would travel from school to school for the whole district.I personally had a very rich experience with youth orchestras as a kid, LeGendre said, and I want that for these students, for this district.There is an orchestra at the high school level, but no feeder program at the lower levels, she said.On Bainbridge Island, student string players are faced with a decision as they enter 5th grade to play in the band or not, Lester said. That's their only option.String musicians come to the high school orchestra in two ways: They are either proficient from years of private lessons, or they start from scratch with the high school orchestra. The combination is not a good one, Lester said.If you already know how to play, she said, then it's boring to play with beginners.Conversely, it could be terrifying to try to play competently when one is just starting out.The problem doesn't affect wind or percussion instrumentalists to the same degree, Lester said, since school bands all accommodate those instruments.The music teachers believe there would be challenges, even if a string teacher were hired right away.Ideally it would be as simple as handing a director a baton and calling it an orchestra, LeGendre said, but we need to be sensitive to the learning curve - or, in this case the collective performance curve - of our string group. The Orchestra Committe has not put a formal proposal before the school board, and say they understand that because the district is financially strapped, hiring a teacher might be deferred. We're opening a dialogue to see what's possible, LeGendre said. Even if it doesn't happen next year, we want to be high on the priority list for the future, aiming at a high-quality orchestra program. The Orchestra Support Committee will remain intact to work for their goal, she said. The All-Island Youth Strings Orchestra debuts in a concert 7 p.m. in the Sakai Intermediate School gymnasium. For information, call 780-0846. "