Each week, a handful of students pull out their cellos, violins and other string instruments for an opportunity to be teachers themselves. For the past four years, Pacific University’s Music Department has participated in the national music education program known as String Project.
Since it was established at Pacific in February 2012, String Project has not only made more opportunities for grade-aged students to learn how to play a string instrument, but it’s also an opportunity for future string teachers to get the experience they need.
“The most important thing about String Project is that it’s the only after- school music program that is actually… equally concerned with the training of future string teachers as well as the school-aged students,” assistant professor of music education Dijana Ihas said.
Pacific is the only university in the state of Oregon that has the String Project program, and out of 41 programs throughout the United States, it is one of the four locations on the west coast.
The student-teachers that are part of string projects were required to take and pass the exam for the student pedagogy courses that Ihas instructed. One of these students was senior Stephanie Landtiser.
“So I am a teacher in preparation and we are all teachers in preparation
and Dr. Ihas is the master and what we do is we teach twice a week and some of us teach once a week for about an hour,” Landtiser said. “It’s making strings accessible to kids, especially from an early age and its great for people like me who want to do music education.”
When the program first started, they originally had 12 students from Forest Grove and the surrounding areas. Now, there is a total of 62 community students, and eight teachers in preparation, ranging from 2nd grade to high school levels.
“When we started it in 2012, it was literally prompted by the budget cuts in the Forest Grove School District… at all levels but high school levels,” Ihas said. “So their superintendent reached out to us and asked if we could do something to provide for younger students classes that they can still have feeding into high school. So it helps the public school education, definitely.”
In addition, the lessons are incredibly affordable for the parents of the string students. While the average private lesson in this area would cost at least 20 dollars per half hour, the lessons in the String Project costs from 40 to 60 dollars for a period of 12 weeks.
During those 12 weeks, the student-teachers take part of every aspect of teaching, from creating lesson plans, to learning how to communicate with students and parents, preparing for concerts, etc. In doing so, the students are paid for their work, as opposed to volunteering.