Brooklyn, NY — When Brooklyn College Community Partnership staff members discovered twenty-one violins, twelve violas, eight cellos, and four double basses at George Wingate High School, they knew they had a good problem on their hands. All of the instruments were brand new, but there was no strings teacher in sight! Through a collaboration between the BCCP and the the four new high schools housed on the George Wingate Campus–The High School of Public Service, International Arts Business School, the School for Human Rights, and the School for Democracy and Leadership–the George Wingate Strings Project was born.
Through twice-weekly classes, the George Wingate Strings Project offers students foundational string instruction, music theory, and composition. Indeed, the program seeks to inspire students to consider future music studies as well as professional careers. Students not only have the opportunity to play music, but are exposed to accomplished string players and performances in the New York City area. This spring students will attend two concerts by visiting performers at Wingate and one concert at Carnegie Hall.
The Strings Project is coordinated by long-time George Wingate High School music teacher Georges Vilson who oversees student recruitment, facilities, and contributes to project curriculum. Accomplished violinist and educator James Duncan serves as chief instructor in charge of string instruction, instrument repair, and special projects. Duncan currently teaches music at an elementary school and is assistant director of the All-Borough Strings Orchestra.
“Not only will students learn to play an instrument, but they’ll learn a new language,” notes Director of the BCCP Arts Network Steve Ausbury. “I also think string instruction and music theory will translate into improvements in the students’ academic work.” As evidence Ausbury sites research demonstrating the corollary between participation in youth development arts programs and academic achievement (See: McNulty, R., preface to Art Show: Youth and Community Development by Heath, Shirley Brice, Washington, D.C.: Partners for Livable Communities,1999).