Music School's String Project Returns

April 22, 2016

Each Saturday afternoon, children as young as 5 convene at the UA's Fred Fox School of Music to learn the violin, viola, cello and bass. Often, it is the first time they have had any immersive training in musical instruments.

And it comes at little or no cost to families. 

Youths ages 5-12 are being taught how to play the instruments through the music school's String Project, a once-defunct program that saw its reintroduction in January.

At the helm is Theodore Buchholz, an assistant professor of cello and the string area coordinator — an intense advocate of arts and music education.

Funded at $100,000 by an anonymous donor, the project once offered for years at the school re-emerged this year with 56 children enrolled — about 30 more than anticipated.

"Being a person who believes very strongly in outreach and serving underserved families, I talked to Ted about the feasibility of the project, and we decided to launch it," said Edward Reid, director of the Fred Fox School of Music, who volunteers to teach the youth each week in collaboration with Symphony Women's Association.

"All the credit goes to Ted and our anonymous donor, who gave us the financial backing we needed," Reid said. "I am so proud of the faculty, and the likes of Ted, as they understand the importance of reaching out to kids." 

Buchholz himself is a product of a youth-focused string project.

Growing up near the University of South Carolina, he became involved in that university's sponsored string project. Admittedly not the strongest student in the beginning while practicing the cello, he said his interest did not sway.

"That organization kept me on task and made a huge difference," Buchholz said, briefly leafing through practicing notes first penned during his days in middle school. Today, those notes sit on bookshelves amid the same literature and composition books that have shaped his career.

Now, as director of the String Project, he leads eight undergraduate and graduate student instructors as they facilitate group lessons and ensemble rehearsals. Informed by the Suzuki Method, youths are split into beginner and more advanced groups and trained in the basics of instrumentation and string performance.

"The bigger picture is that we are starting students earlier in getting quality instruction," Buchholz said. "I want more students playing music. I believe that this is what helps make this world a much better place."

Buchholz said he is commmitted to building future musicians and instructors through music education, especially as it is being cut from public school instruction. Despite those cuts, research consistently shows that exposure to the arts — and the challenge associated with learning and mastering a musical instrument — encourages the kind of creativity that youths need to persevere in other disciplines such as math, science and social studies.

Buchholz said such a project also is essential for university students.

"A large university music school must have some sort of outreach like this. It bolsters what we do," said Buchholz, who also serves as president of the American String Teachers Association of Arizona and director of the Tucson Cello Congress. "We have majors who will work in public schools, so it is important that they have a laboratory that will show them what it is like to manage 26 kids with noisemakers."

Enrollment for the String Project opens in August. For more information, contact Theodore Buchholz at buchholz@email.arizona.edu or 520-621-7012.

To make a donation to the String Project, contact Lisa Comella at lisacomella@email.arizona.edu or 520-626-1512.