Strings for Kids looks to instill a lifelong love of music

  • Members of the Strings for Kids program rehearse for their spring recital in the auditorium at Greenfield Middle School. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Petru Cojocaru, left, and Ben Tardif rehearse for their spring recital with other members of the Strings for Kids program in the auditorium at Greenfield Middle School. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Members of the Strings for Kids program rehearse for their spring recital in the auditorium at Greenfield Middle School. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Theo Tully, front, and Bryn Appel rehearse for their spring recital as part of the Strings for Kids program in the auditorium at Greenfield Middle School on May 18. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Strings for Kids co-director Cecilia Berger poses for a portrait at ArtSpace in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Strings for Kids co-director Cecilia Berger at ArtSpace in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Published: 6/28/2018 9:00:49 AM

Heaving her cello up and out of her case, and climbing the stairs to the stage of Greenfield Middle School’s auditorium, Bryn Appel smiled, eager to join her fellow bandmates.

The fifth-grader was getting ready for her last rehearsal before the Spring Recital, one of Strings for Kids’ biannual concerts.

“I’m nervous, but it’s awesome,” Bryn said.

For the last nine-and-a-half years, Strings for Kids has given children like Bryn an opportunity to learn an instrument — either cello or violin — participate in a “team-like” setting and, hopefully, develop a lifelong love of music.

They also get to show off their skills for family and friends at two concerts a year, the most recent of which happened on May 20.

All of it is free to the students.

“It gives them something to do every day after school that they can grow upon and have for the rest of their lives,” said Strings for Kids co-director Cecilia Berger.

Berger came to Greenfield’s Artspace — which started the Strings for Kids program — in 2000, and has seen Strings for Kids’ entire development.

The program is offered to all students, from third to 12th grade, enrolled in Greenfield’s public schools, and, according to Berger, has served more than 450 students since it began.

Students choose either violin or cello, and participate in a string ensemble with their respective grades, practicing in after-school lessons and rehearsals.

On Saturdays, Strings for Kids students in all 10 grades get together for an outdoor performance, but the big events are the twice-a-year recitals, in which students play a collection of all-original music composed by the late local musician and music teacher, David Tasgal, whom Berger met when she moved to the area and was instrumental in getting students interested in music.

The Saturday ensemble — held at Artspace from 10 to 11 a.m. — also allows students who play string instruments and take lessons at Artspace, but are not in Strings for Kids, to join in the music-making and play some of Tasgal’s tunes.

Berger said the program — funded with grant money, donations and the school district’s budget — inspires the students to become musicians of all sorts.

While they may not stick with violin or cello forever, some students pick up other instruments after Strings for Kids, and many join the Pioneer Valley Symphony Youth Orchestra, of which Berger is manager.

The students who do stick with violin or cello — Berger is a violinist herself — come away from the program with a valuable skill set. Tasgal’s book, “Strings Fun & Easy,” teaches everything from finger positioning, to reading music, to tips for parents and songs.

“String players, too, are the majority of musicians in an orchestra,” Berger said.

On Friday, May 18, fifth-graders packed themselves onto the middle school stage and diligently followed co-director Heather Sommerlad’s directions.

“If you’re slowing down, what should you do?” Sommerlad, then conductor, called out to the students.

“Look at you,” the students called back.

With only one rehearsal left before their weekend concert, students gripped their cellos and violins with a purposeful gaze affixed to the sheet music in front of them.

“It’s especially cool when it comes to concert times,” Berger said. “We have a number of very strong musicians, but some are nervous.”

With three flicks of her wrists, waiving them as if holding an imaginary baton, Sommerlad ignited the students into action. The deep, booming, yet elegant, sound of multiple cellos, backed by the sweeter, gliding sounds of violins filled the air.

There were dozens of students playing, but the sound they emanated was one coherent piece, like the string-based soundtrack to an epic film.

One of the benefits of Strings for Kids, Berger said, is learning to play music in coordination with a group — something private lessons, which many of the students take at Artspace, don’t always facilitate.

“They aren’t just playing by themselves, but as a group. And to do well, they have to practice with the group,” Berger said.

That also means students are expected to carry their own weight and responsibilities — and show up.

“I absolutely love it to see the students progress and learn things, and really achieve and accomplish in an orchestra, but you’re on a team,” Berger said.

“On a sports team, you’ve got 10 to 12 games in a season. In an orchestra, you’ve got two,” Berger added. “Missing a rehearsal affects the whole team.”

However, the students are usually right on board, eager to do their part, playing pieces like “Practicing on a Tropical Island,” “Blast-off” and “Practicing as the Cows Come Home.”

“It’s definitely challenging,” Bryn said, but she loves playing her instrument, and its become a hobby.

Parker Beauregard, also in fifth grade, chose violin “because I thought it was easier, but, boy, was I wrong.”

Parker, though, has stuck with it and already sees the benefits of playing the violin.

“It’s fun. It’s fun for kids patient enough to learn the violin, and it’s worth it,” Parker said.

Staff reporter David McLellan has worked at the Greenfield Recorder since 2018. He covers Orange, New Salem and Wendell. He can be reached at: or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.

Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906


Copyright © 2019 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy