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September 24, 1998

Oberlin Conservatory Accepting Applications for String Preparatory Program
Media Contact: Linda Shockley


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Program Introduces Elementary-Age School Children To String Playing

Applications are being accepted for the Oberlin String Preparatory Program, an outreach program of the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music. The program is designed for students entering the fourth or fifth grades who are interested in beginning study on a stringed instrument (violin, viola, cello, bass). Students who plan to participate in public school string programs are strongly encouraged to join the Oberlin String Preparatory Program.

Approximately 120 students in the Oberlin area have participated in this program, which celebrates its sixth year in 1998. These students have gone on to play with youth orchestras, and middle school and high school bands; one student is a professional musician who often plays jazz with a Cleveland-based band.

Dr. Joanne Erwin, founder and director of the Oberlin String Preparatory Program, is Associate Professor of Music Education at the Oberlin College Conservatory. She said of the program, "The program emphasizes a wide diversity of musical styles not usually covered in traditional programs. We explore classical, jazz, folk and country. I also try to reflect the rich heritage of the population of Lorain County. For example, Lorain County has a significant Puerto Rican population so it's not unusual to for us to study authentic Puerto Rican song traditions. And as I want students to understand 'how' music comes together, there's a heavy emphasis on composition. As educators, we find such joy in nurturing a new audience for music, not simply in fostering a love for music in the young students who join the program, but also in their parents."

Students in the program receive private instruction from accomplished Conservatory string players who have completed teaching training. Participants also study in group string classes taught by Dr. Erwin.

Sarah Zaharako is a fifth-year violin performance student completing an interdisciplinary degree that combines music education with visual arts. She not only has taught five years with the string prep program, she also spent a few weeks teaching music to children in Panama.

Zaharko said, "When I signed up for the pedagogy classes as a freshman so I could teach in this program, I really just did it so that I could learn new skills, have a job and make some money. But this experience changed my entire career plan. I still love to perform, but now I see myself as an educator. I can't foresee a time in my life when I won't be teaching. Every student is different. Each has different skills and needs and I love those differences. As a bonus, teaching others has taught me a lot about myself."

Briana Knull is a senior cello performance student who described her experience teaching in the program this way: "I think working with kids in their own environment can be difficult for teachers. For example, at Lowell Elementary, I didn't have a classroom where I could set the rules, and I never had a guaranteed group to work with. I had to be flexible and spontaneous. Teaching through Oberlin has helped me clarify what I want to do with my life, and it has provided the skills so that I can begin to accomplish those goals."

The cost for the program is $200 per semester; scholarships are available. A limited number of instruments are also available. For additional information or to apply, contact the Oberlin Conservatory Office of Outreach at (440) 775-8044.