At Annunciation Catholic School in Havelock, band isn’t just about trumpets and trombones.
The school recently expanded its music program, meaning students can now learn string instruments such as the violin, cello and viola.
Now, students from preschool through the eighth grade can get lessons with string and wind instruments.
“It hasn’t been offered at Annunciation ever and it’s a great opportunity, especially for the younger children to get involved with instrumental music at a young age,” said Elizabeth Thayer, instrumental music teacher at the school. “Previously, it has been only after school for band. A teacher from the public schools would come in and teach two days of band instruments to the upper grades, meaning third through eighth, and we have never had a pull-out class from their instructional day.”
The school has added 35 string students to its existing 35 band students.
Thayer said she has enjoyed taking on the challenge of teaching violin, viola and cello to the youngsters.
“I have to make sure that they can read the notes before they can do anything,” Thayer said. “My favorite age is about six or seven to teach them violin or viola because they are like little sponges. They absorb all of the information. They just want more and more and more. They love it, and they show passion for it.”
It takes patience.
“We started out with plucking strings and then went onward to windshield wipers and actually placing the bow on the strings,” Thayer said. “The little people are actually playing notes. They are playing songs that are just on open strings whereas the older students are placing fingers on those strings. They are starting to get songs coming out.”
These are sounds that should be considered diamonds in the rough, she said.
“I love teaching little people and what makes it exciting is that even if they don’t have the most beautiful sound coming out of their instrument, the light in their eyes is the reason I’m here,” Thayer said.
Thayer is hoping to join the strings with the wind instruments this year for a performance.
“I’d like to have a full school ensemble hopefully before the end of the school year,” she said. “I’d have to do a lot of transposition for the parts so that everybody is playing in the correct key at the same time.”
The school has a lot of brass and woodwind instruments that they are able to lend out to students, which increases participation.
“The students still pay for reeds and stuff like that, but it’s at a minimum price. They pay like a $1 for a reed,” Thayer said. “I can do a lot of the maintenance on the instruments instead of them taking it to the shop. I can save them the money and fix it myself and charge them just for the part and whatever I need to get for the instrument.
“The funds that I get from teaching Suzuki go toward the purchase of more books and hopefully some more string instruments by the end of the school year. I’m basically tithing the money from my private instruction directly back to the school in support of the instrumental music program.”
All the effort is worth it to the children, she said.
“Music is a universal language,” Thayer said. “First and foremost, it’s a language that can be transferred to any other medium be it language arts or mathematics. From day one I talk about the dollar bill, the value of a dollar, the value of two half dollars, and of four quarters. It’s a complete correlation between mathematics and music theory. They go hand in hand. They are going back to their classrooms and they are using these bettered skills to better themselves in the classrooms.”