Pacific University String Project Participants and Teachers to Share the Warmth on Tuesday, Dec. 8

More than 60 string instrument music students from throughout Washington County age 6 to 16 will join Pacific University student-teachers and faculty in giving back this holiday season through a special family friendly concert on Tuesday, Dec. 8.

Pacific's highly successful String Project, a 12-week semester music education program of instruction and lessons using the violin, viola, cello and double bass instruments, presents The Little Match Girl in McCready Hall at 7 p.m. Admission is free.

Participating youngsters will perform a variety of solo and orchestra pieces with Pacific music faculty and eight Pacific undergraduate students who serve as teachers during the course. The performance will share the importance of compassion toward others and is appropriate for children.

In collaboration with the Forest Grove Family Resource Center, participating students were encouraged to wrap a gently used or new article of warm clothing with a hand-written note to donate to those less fortunate and lacking the basics to stay warm during the winter months.

"I wanted to connect the music with humanitarian action of collecting hats, scarfs, and gloves for young and school age students as they both warm-up our existence in different and equally important ways,” said assistant professor of music education Dr. Dijana Ihas, the String Project founding director and master teacher.

Pacific University is one of just 42 universities nationally, and the only institution in Oregon, that is part of the National String Project Consortium (NSPC), which provides practical hands-on training for undergraduate string education majors during their college years while giving school-age students the opportunity to study a stringed instrument.

Pacific is one of the few private liberal arts institutions at the national level to offer this unique program for its undergraduate students and local kids. Pacific's eight undergraduate students, under the close supervision of Dr. Ihas, spent the past 12 weeks teaching four levels of strings music the 62 local children.

What began in 2012, Dr. Ihas noted, as a bridge to fill a strings music program void for local Forest Grove K-12 students, has blossomed into a program that serves several communities through a 12-week course in both the fall and spring semesters, and a week-long summer camp. The university funded the program during the first year, then received a five-year grant from the NSPC to sustain and grow the offerings.

A key part of the offering that has spurred local participation is its affordability. "The philosophy of this program is to offer high-quality strings music education to as many young students as possible," Dr. Ihas said, noting that the entire 12-week course consisting of two hours per week costs between $40 and $60 depending on the level. That's between $2 and $5 per lesson. As participation continues to grow, Ihas said, the program will likely become self-sustaining while remaining affordable.

Through the project, Pacific undergraduate students also benefit through the part-time employment opportunity that helps prepare them for careers in strings music education.

As master teacher, Ihas teaches the first day of each week and the students lead the second, with Ihas evaluating everything from lesson planning to teaching and communication with parents.

The Pacific University String Project has drawn much praise from parents of participating school-age students, including Forest Grove School District superintendent Yvonne Curtis. "I appreciate the comprehensive approach, which includes all aspects of playing, reading music and learning about composers," she said.

Chi Darlak, whose daughter began the program as a beginner last year, agrees. "The Pacific University String Project not only provides children with excellent musical teaching and experiences, but it is also providing an opportunity for students to be involved in the community as well."

Tuesday's concert is the culmination of what both the children and Pacific student-teachers have learned this fall, including the need to reach out to local community members in need.

Dec. 4, 2015