Hundreds play in an ‘electrifying’ concert
By Gretchen Webster
The passion of the 200 kids on the Fairfield Warde stage was evident as they played — they were doing what they clearly loved to do. But it wasn’t sports or video games that occupied them. The students were playing violins and cellos — and they were rocking out.
At the Electrify Your Strings Concert last week, elementary, middle and high school students were energetically playing together for a sell-out crowd as part of a special music project brought to the school by Cindi Eckhardt, an instrumental teacher at Jennings School. The project, with funding from the Fairfield Foundation for Education, brought national music educator and rock violinist Mark Wood to Fairfield to show kids just how electrifying music can be.
“I’m really excited. The music is upbeat and fun,” Jennings School fifth grader Katie Kornutik said before the concert. She had enjoyed practicing every night for months, she said, in anticipation of that night.
Eckhardt began the program in January by contacting all Fairfield schools and gathering a huge group of string students — any one who wanted to participate and who would be willing to attend extra rehearsals. Students from all 16 of Fairfield’s public schools began practicing the rocking music provided by Wood in preparing to meet with each other and with Wood for two rehearsals prior to the concert.
Eckhardt stood with 12 fifth graders and their violins (or other stringed instruments) arranged in front of her at one recent in-school rehearsal at Jennings School. They started to play — and the atmosphere was, indeed, electrifying. The students were bopping along with the music - which had a strong rock beat. All eyes were focused on their teacher and their music, all fingers raced along the neck of the instrument, and all were clearly enjoying themselves.
“I want them to have fun and experience the joy – the same things we in the music department always want for them,” Eckhardt said of her goals for the program.
As well as having a great time playing the modern, upbeat music, the children were also learning technique and improving their skills as they played, she said. “They’re living the music in the rock genre. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
The cost for the $5,000 program was covered by a $3,500 grant from the Fairfield Foundation for Education, which provides grants to help teachers enrich and enhance the curriculum in the Fairfield public schools, and $1,500 from tickets for the concert. The program cost included music arrangements by Mark Wood for the rehearsals and concert, and his visit to Fairfield to rehearse with the children and conduct the concert.
“It was inspiring …exciting!” concert-goer Meredith Rippey, a member of the board of directors of the Fairfield Foundation for Education said of the concert. “He [Mark Wood] was also really supportive of building on Fairfield’s already great music program.”
Eckhardt said she would like to bring a special music project to Fairfield schools about every two years, or when it can be financed. The Canadian group Barrage played with students last year and with the Electrify Your String project such a success she’s thinking about what might be next for the district’s large string program.
“We want them involved with music as much as possible,” Eckhardt said, “Music is our passion.”
Photos by Jean Santopatre
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