Music program helps fill gaps in schools
South West Music School provides after-school music lessons
Suzanne Gaye, a violinist and viola player since childhood, will never be comfortable with the way music programs outside the marching band realm have gradually diminished in Beaverton and other school districts.
Its really sad to see this, she says. Elementary students in the Beaverton district are only getting music lessons once every six days. You cant run a program through that. You cant get any continuity.
When the district stopped offering stringed-instrument classes in the early 1990s, the Greenway resident who had taught string music classes in several district schools decided to take up the slack. Initially creating the Beaverton Strings Program, she joined forces in 1995 with the existing South West Music School, a nonprofit program vocalist Steve Galvan, Maria Chobin and cellist Jerry Bobbe formed in 1992 to offer after-school music classes for local students.
In addition to elementary-level violin classes, the program offers a multi-level orchestra, group cello classes, string bass as well as a middle and high school beginners class. Held at various locations in the Beaverton School District, lessons from the stable of five teachers cost around $420 per year, which includes 29 classes and a recital concert.
Gaye, whose son Chris provides bass and violin lessons, says the program does its best to make lessons affordable while keeping itself afloat.
Its a lot less expensive than private lessons, she says. What I like is the socialization and working together. Kids get to learn together.
Although awareness of the program is a challenge, demand for music knowledge, she maintains, has never been an issue.
Ive never had any problem finding students, she says. Ive always had a waiting list in my private studio.
On Tuesday evening, string-music hopefuls filed into the cafeteria at Cedar Park Middle School, 11100 S.W. Park Ave., to try on violins and violas for size, literally, and discuss lesson schedules with a handful of teachers in the program.
Ten-year-old Olivia Buist, a fifth-grader at Ridgewood Elementary School, came by with her mother, Catriona, to sign up for the orchestra classes. Inspired by moms instrument of choice, Olivia picked up the violin four years ago.
I just wanted to play an instrument, and since my mom played the violin, I decided to play as well, she says, adding she looks forward to being in an orchestra. I have the chance to play with other kids my age who enjoy it.
Chris Gaye, who started playing while a fourth-grader at Raleigh Park Elementary School, says children taking after their musically inclined parents is an inspiring trend.
The interest gets passed on from generation to generation, and thats exciting to see, he says, noting a lack of awareness does keep some children from exploring string music through the South West Music School. I dont think people are aware of it.
Suzanne Gaye agrees, noting that inquiries for lessons suffered when district guidelines dictated that flyers would only go home with students without email addresses.
We used to put flyers in childrens backpacks, she says. Then (the district) went to email and responses dropped like a lead balloon. Were not getting the message out.
Cello teacher Kathie Reed laments the loss in school-time string instruction as well as the days when ensembles and orchestras in the Beaverton district regularly progressed to state contests.
I think its important to fill the void that presently exists in young peoples education, she says. Theyre not seeing the programs in the schools.
When they do find a program that lets them explore the connection between music, creativity and learning, its worth the effort and frustration in having to work around the educational system.
When a kid gets it, truly understands and makes that connection, Chris Gaye says, its a really cool thing to see.Add a comment