PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Learning to play a stringed instrument takes practice. A lot of practice. It's no wonder a lot of kids give up.
But even more never even give stringed instruments a try. The goal of new partnership between Portland's East End Community School and the 317 Main Community Music Center is to change that. And those behind the effort are feeling good about how things are going so far.
This fall, every third grader at the school was required to take group fiddle lessons for three weeks during music class. After that period, the children were given the option of continuing their lessons with a fiddle teacher from 317 Main every Wednesday morning during the school's "Rise and Shine" early care program. The students also would be able to take a violin home to practice for the school year, free of charge.
The school's dean of students and music teacher, Dan Nogar, said he wanted to see if more kids would give stringed instruments a try if they knew what they were getting themselves into.
"Everybody has a chance to hold a basketball before they decide they want to become a basketball player, right?" he said.
A little more than a third of the third grade class, 27 kids, chose to stick with the fiddle. Third grader Jillian Petruccelli said she liked it immediately, "It was pretty cool when I started in so I wanted to keep trying it and trying it. And then I really liked it," she said.
Her classmate, Aluel Mawein, said she had never held an instrument before the group lessons began. "It just felt like happiness," she said.
Those organizing the effort at the Yarmouth-based 317 Main felt the project was a good way to build community through music, showing both the children and their parents how music can enhance a student's life. 317 Main's Megan Martelle, who teaches the Wednesday morning fiddle lesson, said, "I see a lot of joy. I see them latching on to the instruments quickly, which is what I hoped for. I see them energized. I see them being inspired and, you know, happy!"
East End Community School does have a traditional strings program that is offered starting in fourth grade. But those students have to take lessons during lunch and recess. Nogar hopes that this fiddle program helps feed more students into the strings program, even as students continue with their morning fiddle lessons.
317 Main is working on getting grant funding to expand the program to next year's third grade class in the fall.