The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

April 26, 2013

Learning violin

DANVILLE — Ann Harrison saw a violin program at an elementary school in Bloomington, Ind., and she was determined to bring a similar program to Attica Elementary School. The seed was sown in Attica, and the school is completing its third year of the violin program.

“It was a big step,” Harrison said, “but we took one step at a time.”

Harrison is a member of the Indiana University Foundation board of directors. When she was in Bloomington for a meeting, the dean of the Jacobs School of Music took her to Fairview Elementary School to see the violin program there.

“I was so amazed,” Harrison said. “I asked if there was any way we could bring that program to Attica.”

Harrison said the community has been supportive for the program, which is for all first- and second-grade students with an optional third-grade program.

Natalie Boeyink, an IU doctoral student, comes to Attica four days a week to teach violin. This is her first year at Attica. Katarzyna Bugaj taught the program the first two years. She is now on staff at Florida State University.

“The general reaction of the kids has been very positive,” Boeyink said.

Each class period is 40-minutes long, two days a week.

“There is self-discipline,” said Marcia Piper, Attica’s choral teacher. “They learn how to stand in place.”

The students are required to stand on a carpet square during the 40 minutes.

Piper and Joel Good, the instrumental music teacher, assist Boeyink with the class.

“The students have a real sense of pride,” Boeyink said.

“For the first three months, they learned how to hold the violin,” Boeyink said.

That was all before they attempted to play. The classroom has five different sizes of violins to match the size of the student.

“These are quality violins,” said Boeyink, who went through the program at a Bloomington elementary school as a child and assisted the teacher there last year.

“I have experienced all the things they are going through,” she said. “The kids are excited. They learn by ear.”

She repeats many of the steps over and over.

“There is a lot of repetition,” Good said. “We are breaking down the parts for them.”

Harrison said the students learn more than just music.

“Math is being taught as the children repeat times tables while standing like the Statue of Liberty with their violins held aloft to strengthen their arms,” she said. “They are learning geography in similar exercises. They children are also counting in English, French and Spanish. There is emphasis on focusing and working together for success.”

The teachers brought in different band instruments to show the students.

“All of the skills learned here can be used when they go on to band and choir,” Boeyink said.

“It is fun,” said second-grader Garrett Crowder, 8. “I like to play.”

Faith McDaniel, 8, agreed.

“I like when you get to hear how it sounds,” she said. “It is awesome.”

She would like to continue playing the violin in the future.

Some parents have invested in violins for their children. Pipe said she heard a knock on her door when got home from church on Dec. 23 from a parent who wanted her to tune a violin so it would be ready to play when the child opened the present on Christmas Eve.

Harrison said the community has been supportive of the program.

“People have given the money to the school district or the community foundation for the violin program,” Harrison said. “It costs $300 to sponsor a violin.”

Harrison said the program partnered with the IU Jacobs School of Music, IU Women’s Philanthropic Council, Attica Community Foundation, Attica Community Foundation, Harrison Castings Co. and Central National Bank. The effort also received more than 100 individual contributions.

Harrison went to former Superintendent Judy Bush and told her the program could be implemented at no cost to the school district.

“We moved very fast,” she said.

The district music teachers attended a workshop at IU so they would be able to assist in the program.

“We have seen real live results,” she said. “They learn rhythm, they learn to sing and they learn to work together.

“This program’s success is a result of community engagement an support, our teachers and school corporation’s support and, of course, the special and gifted young people participating and learning in this program.”

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