They say the violin is one of the hardest instruments to learn.
Tell that to 10- and 11-year-olds at Harris Elementary, where a full third of the fourth grade class has signed up for lessons.
“We knew people would be interested,” said music teacher Christy Perry. “But to have every single person who had expressed interest then show up for our information meeting with a check in hand was another thing.”
There’s never been a fourth grade orchestra in Amherst. Perry said her 10-week after-school classes may pave the way for one in the near future.
Parents feel like they are helping to make history by getting so many children involved in early music education, she said.
Stringed instruments are an amazing slingshot for young minds.
They help develop the parts of the brain that handle math and critical thinking skills, Perry said. They also teach kids how to multi-task and tune fine motor skills.
Most parents, though, are simply excited to expose their children to the world of fine arts, she said.
Harris Elementary didn’t have a music room until this year. Perry, who used to push a cart loaded with instruments from room to room to teach, lobbied for the space where she teaches during the day and will give lessons after the final bell.
There are 76 students signed up (so far), more than the 30 or so Perry said she had at first expected.
Driscol Music in Lorain has donated all of the violins that will be needed. The average cost of a violin is $800, so Driscol is putting up a $60,800 donation in free leases for the year.
“I think they’re hoping to see us have a full orchestra in the district sooner rather than later,” Perry told the News-Times.
She’s already started talks with district superintendent Steven Sayers about ramping toward a full band in the near future.
It would serve as an excellent launch point for the Nord Middle School band, but Perry said she’s just interested in giving fourth-graders a chance to try a musical instrument.
“What if it’s something they love? What if it turns into a career? What if it was meant to be their passion?” she asked.
Perry is no stranger to big undertakings.
During her eight-year tenure as a North Olmsted teacher, she launched an elementary school orchestra from scratch.
She started there with four violins and two cellos. By the time she left to take a job in the Amherst Schools, the Olmsted orchestra was 60 students strong.
“I hope people see that music is the last thing that should be cut,” Perry said. “When I teach violin, I’m teaching kids how to read music, and that’s language arts. I’m teaching math with notes and beats and rests. That’s fractions. You want to talk about kids learning science? I’m teaching them about vibrations and frequencies.”
A mid-April recital is planned to showcase students’ progress.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or on Twitter at @EditorHawk.