Community orchestra’s string education program enriches students – Lynchburg News and Advance

In hopes of making music a part of everyone’s lives, the Nelson County Community Orchestra’s Music Magic String Education Program (SEP) teaches young students how to play string instruments.

Once a week after school, SEP teachers Michael Tyree and Laura Owens go to Rockfish Valley and Tye River elementary schools and North Branch School in Afton to help students learn how to how play violin, viola and cello during an hour-long session.

“I think we have brought music into the lives of a lot of children, and they have benefited from it,” said Ellen Neal, president of the Nelson County Community Orchestra’s board. “It’s been difficult to administer [the program], but very worthwhile.”

Tyree has played violin since he was 10 years old. Owens has 30 years of violin experience and previously taught in Lynchburg City Public Schools for 10 years and now teaches at Patrick Henry Community College.

“We are pleased to have these teachers,” Neal said. “They are high-quality teachers, and it’s been wonderful.”

Each year around 18 students from third, fourth and fifth grade enroll in the program, but this year fewer students have enrolled. Tyree went to the elementary schools to conduct a demonstration to get students interested in taking lessons.

“They were very excited,” Tyree said. “We played for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders, and as they walk into the room and see my violin, you see how excited they get. It’s just very exciting to see them excited.”

After the demonstration, Tyree said more students showed interest in taking classes. Therefore, enrollment continues for the program. Students start in the beginners’ class and then move to the intermediate class as their skills advance.

Students also perform either with the orchestra, with a recording or by themselves as a group during each Nelson County Community Orchestra concert.

“It’s really exhilarating,” Neal said. “Here’s these kids, who months before had no idea how to play an instrument and read music, up on stage playing. They are adorable. It’s refreshing in this day and age to watch the students performing.”

The fee is $18.75 per lesson, but with a scholarship, students can pay as low as $3 a lesson. Neal said about 40 percent of students are on scholarships.

“[Scholarships are] essential,” Neal said. “There’s so many kids who can’t afford to pay for high-priced lessons. We can’t have the program without scholarships.”

In past years, the program received many grants and was successful with fundraisers, but this year it didn’t receive any grants. To make up for the lack of grants this year, the NCCO’s board is hosting a fundraiser from 7 to 10 p.m. Dec. 9 at Rapunzel’s Coffee & Books in Lovingston.

The event will feature local musicians including the NCCO’s Wandering Minstrels, Larkspur Flute Ensemble, students from the SEP and others. Admission is $10. All the proceeds will go toward SEP scholarships.

“We are kind of riding on the coattails of last year,” Neal said. “We are completely on our own. We hope people will turn out [for the fundraiser].”

Besides lessons for young students, the NCCO board also has lessons for adults from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Mondays at the Rockfish Presbyterian Church for $20 a lesson.

For more information regarding lessons or the Dec. 9 fundraiser, go to or contact Neal at (434)263-4745.


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