“Ready, Set, Go!”
On the count of three, 35 elementary school kids with glazed eyes follow their music notes and their teacher as they play through “Abandoned Funhouse” for the 4th time that day. Their stringed instruments hum in perfect unity to the music as the background piano weaves its way through the melody.
“Abandoned Funhouse” is the newest song that Platinum Strings, an after-school program, is learning this quarter.
Platinum Strings is the honors strings program for all of the elementary schools in the East area. The kids are picked up at their school and bussed to East every Wednesday after school, where they practice from 3:45 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. in the orchestra room, preparing for their 4 concerts and music festival in March.
They always start practice by tuning their instruments, and follow it with warm up scales. Afterwards, they either have mini-private lessons — with one of the high school student volunteers, or with teachers Adam Keda and Alexis Biehl — or play through songs as a group, stopping to straighten out individual sections.
“It’s a good 45 minutes [to an hour] of extra practice time,” Biehl said. “A lot of these kids don’t have a lot of time to practice at home or they don’t make the time to practice at home. I think that’s really the best thing, is getting them more time with their instruments.”
As a no-tryout program, Platinum Strings is open to any student involved in a strings program at their elementary school, providing extra practice time for anyone who is willing.
The program began four years ago in order to give advanced kids in strings a chance to practice more and meet kids from other schools. When it first started, there were 10 kids in the program. Now, there are 35 kids currently enrolled, compared to 30 last year and 25 the year before.
“When I was in elementary school, I kind of wished that I had more guidance. I didn’t really get any good guidance until 6th and 7th grade, or the summer of 6th,” junior Jerald Young, one of the student volunteers, said.
According to Briarwood 6th grader Eli Moon, Platinum Strings has given him the opportunity to improve his violin skills through extra practice and the mini-private lessons.
“If I didn’t [do platinum strings], I would probably be a lot less motivated to play the violin because I really wasn’t being that challenged during normal strings,” Moon said.
Platinum Strings will perform one song together at every 5th and 6th grade strings concert, in addition to performing at a middle school concert and caroling during Christmas time at local nursing homes.
These concerts will lead up to their final music festival in March, where the students and parents have lunch and work with a guest conductor. At the end of the festival, they put on a concert for all of the parents.
Platinum Strings runs through May, leaving the students with a full year of practice and team building opportunities.
“At school, there’s 17 kids in a class,” Biehl said. “[So] it’s nice for them to be able to play with 35 other kids and play at the high school and get to work with high schoolers. It helps with getting them to want to continue in middle school and even high school too.”