First year of Stroud Strings Program a Success

Student performerThe first year of the after-school orchestra program at Howard B. Stroud Elementary School recently wrapped up on a successful note, as 10 third-grade students got the chance to showcase what they’ve learned over the course of the school year, performing on their instruments for their families.

The Stroud Strings concert on March 31 capped the first year of a planned three-year partnership between the Clarke County School District, the University of Georgia’s Community Music School (UGA CMS), and local nonprofit AthFest Educates.

(Click here for more photos.)

The 10 students who completed the year attended the after-school class twice a week for 10 weeks per semester for a total of 40 class meetings. The program is planned to expand to fourth- and fifth-grade cohorts over the next two years.

AthFest Educates, a major supporter of CCSD committed to sustaining and advancing music and arts education for K-12 youth in Athens-Clarke County, last year awarded a special $35,000 grant for the program, committing the funds to purchase the instruments, pay for the CMS music instructors, and cover the transportation costs for taking the students home from the program. 

The project was born out of AthFest Educates’ desire to use some of its reserve funds for a larger project that would fall outside its annual grant-making initiative, which caps each individual grant award at $5,000. A survey of local teachers and youth development specialists identified access to individualized and small-group instrument-specific lessons as a top music-education program need in Athens-Clarke County. 

“AthFest Educates is proud to support music and arts education in CCSD schools,” said Jill Helme, executive director of AthFest Educates. “We see tremendous value in students getting an opportunity to work with professional artists and musicians."

Instructors for the program this year included UGA CMS director Kristin Jutras, Cedar Shoals High School orchestra director Rebecca Floyd, and UGA CMS violin teachers Molly Stanley, Elizabeth Boyce, and Carly King. 

Stroud Elementary music teacher Joy Smith said the impact of Stroud Strings is “so much greater than the sum of its parts.”

“When taken at face value, a handful of children learn to play a musical instrument. But upon further consideration, those children are gaining so much more — increased self-control, a greater sense of self-efficacy, the proven cognitive benefits of small-group musical instruction, and an enduring value placed on the experience of music,” said Ms. Smith. “The benefits are already visible for some of these students. Furthermore, while the grant has tried to remove obstacles to participation where possible, we've had parents move mountains to help their children be able to attend, which really highlights the shared sense of the importance of this opportunity.”

“We had very dedicated parents who really committed to having their kids there, despite all kinds of challenges they faced in order to do so,” added Ms. Jutras. “The program surely challenged the kids as well, but they persevered and made great progress. They were very proud of their accomplishments at the end of the year!”