The Texas Tech University String Project will hold “Tune-In,” an informational open house Tuesday, September 19 in the band hall at the Texas Tech University school of Music, from 4:30-7 p.m. for Lubbock area 4th grade students and their parents who wish to play a string instrument. Dr. Blair Williams and Dr. Clara Zahler join the discussion on this episode of The Front Row.
Dr. Williams tell us about yourself, a little bit about your background and how your journey brought you to Texas Tech.
I came to Texas Tech after I had finished my doctorate at Ohio State University and I was looking to come back to Texas. I was a public school teacher in Texas and I was really interested in teaching students how to be orchestra directors in Texas. Since I had gotten such a great education in Texas and learned so much, I was really excited to come back.
Clara Zahler, tell us about your journey to Texas Tech.
It’s been a long haul. I started out, I was born in Italy and immigrated to New York. My dad was a violin maker and of course that’s why I’m a violinist. And my husband and I have pretty much traveled everywhere and lived in many different places including Japan, Connecticut, Minnesota and Pittsburgh. When the opportunity came around to move to Texas, and Texas Tech in particular, we were very intrigued by what was going on here and the culture, the camaraderie and the excellence of the faculty and students.
So we arrived last year, we’ve been here for a year. My husband is the dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts and I’m a professor of practice here at the university. I heard about the string project quite a few years ago when I attended ASTA (Americana String Teacher’s Association) Conference and I was always wanting to be a part of this wonderful experience. When I arrived here at Texas Tech, Blair very graciously asked me to come on board and I think I jumped on it, if I remember correctly. So here I am and very excited about the progress the students are making and the outreach we’re able to do to bring string music to this part of Texas.
Tell us what the string project is for people who don’t know.
The string projects in West Texas are very strong and have been for a long time. There’s a rich heritage, a rich tradition of orchestras in the school in West Texas and we hope to supplement that with the string project by creating an opportunity for students to start string instruction in the fourth grade prior to it’s inclusion in the school curriculum in the sixth grade, which is kind of the general area for when that does happen.
So we want to provide opportunities for all students even if their school district doesn’t have a string program to be able to get started on a string instrument and then they can also continue to participate in strings through their secondary eduction, either through our local youth orchestras or other private lessons and chamber groups as well.
My understanding is, it’s better to start string players fairly early. Is that correct?
It’s more adaptable because our string instruments are made in fractional sizes. So younger students, no matter the height or arm length, can access an instrument that will fit them younger than our other brass and other instruments. But at the same time still be able to participate in a vehicle for making music. So we want to give those students an opportunity to hear what those instruments are and make a choice and they can always take that and use it as a vehicle for make music on a different instrument or another instrument later on too.
Listen to the full interview at the top of the page.