Young violinists get a chance to shine alongside conservatory musicians through String Sprouts program

The String Sprouts students in their tuxedo (tee) shirts onstage at the UMKC Conservatory. Photo credit Rachael Jane.

Last Thursday, the stage of the White Recital Hall at the UMKC Conservatory was filled with promising musicians — many of them shorter than a cello.

Photo credit Rachael Jane.

Saturday’s recital was the culmination of a months-long program that provided students in underserved parts of the metro with no-cost violin lessons taught through Heartland Chamber Music. The String Sprouts program gives the kids aged 3 to 8 access to instruments and violin lessons over the course of a five-year curriculum.

The young players include children from the Shawnee Mission area. Last fall, several students enrolled in Comanche Elementary’s pre-K program were among the recipients of the 56 violins donated by metro-area music stores for kids interested in the String Sprouts program.

The program uses the Suzuki violin method and El Sistema to impart the fundamentals of stringed instruments. The idea is not only to spark an interest in music among the participants, but to help prepare students for the rigors of school.

“Research shows that students of low socioeconomic status typically begin kindergarten a full year behind their more well off peers,” said the Heartland Chamber Music organization in a release. “String Sprouts is a community driven solution to this particular challenge in early education.”

The show was an opportunity for the kids to shine. But it was along a lot of fun for the UMKC students as well.

“What an incredible opportunity for all concerned,” said UMKC orchestra director Robert Olson. “First and foremost for the young children to be on stage with a full symphony orchestra, and secondly for the students of the Conservatory, providing precisely the kind of educational experience they will be doing the rest of their lives.”

String Sprouts students practicing at the Hiersteiner Child Development Center in Johnson County. Photo credit Ernie Block.