For adults looking to fine-tune their musical talents, whether major or minor, the Community String Project (CSP) in Bristol has a class for you. Founded in 2009, CSP aimed to provide affordable music lessons for youth in the East Bay area interested in learning stringed instruments: violin, viola, cello and bass. But after inquiries from many interested adults, the program decided to add adult classes to their curriculum.
“We found that arts are engaging at any age,” says Executive Director Cheryl Burns, who adds that the adult programs have grown over the past five years. Four different classes are currently offered: beginner, intermediate, advanced string ensemble and advanced chamber ensemble. While skill levels vary, so do students’ reasons for picking up an instrument. Some adults see the lessons as a club “where they get to have their social time through music,” says Education Coordinator Christine Harrington. Others are a bit more intense and serious. Luckily, with four groups, “there is something for everyone.”
All students have the opportunity to perform in a concert at the culmination of their lessons. Instructor Nathan Rodriquez, a violinist with the Rhode Island Philharmonic Community Orchestra, believes that it’s important for students to perform as much as possible and tries to get his students to play three or four times throughout a semester.
To get them ready, classes begin with warm up exercises and tuning then move on to discussion of skill techniques and repertoire. There are also sectional rehearsals where students work in smaller groups with instrument-specific specialists. “A little bit of pressure for a public performance is a great motivator,” Nathan says. Classes meet once a week on a semester basis at the First Congregational Church in Bristol. For an hour and forty minutes, students meet with an instructor as a group. All four instruments practice together, but since groups average eight to ten students, there are opportunities for individualized attention.
Beginner level classes are open to all adults; no previous musical knowledge or experience is required. According to instructor Brianna DeWitt, it usually takes two semesters for students to move from the beginner level to intermediate, and then a year or two to transition into the advanced class.
No matter what level, students receive a sense of joy from learning a musical instrument. That harmony even extends beyond the classroom. “Students meet outside of class to hang out, play music, go to concerts and have coordinated performances without teachers’ help,” Brianna says. And knowing that her students have formed such a community is music to her ears.
Registration for fall semester classes will be on Wed., Sept. 10 at Mt. Hope High School. Forms will be available online. Classes begin Sept. 23 and cost $190 for 16 weeks.