By TAMI QUIGLEY Staff writer
“The hills are alive with the sound of music” in Schuylkill Haven, specifically around St. Ambrose School.
This year, for the first time third- and fourth-graders are learning to play the violin as part of their music education, thanks to the Gabriel Chamber Ensemble (GCE) of Central Pennsylvania, which offered a presentation at the school last year. GCE, based in Orwigsburg, is the parent organization of the Gabriel Youth Orchestra (GYO). The violins are on loan from GCE.
“The violin program is a wonderful addition to our school,” said Carol Boyer, principal of St. Ambrose School. “Having a world class musician teaching in our school raises our capability to provide quality education to an even higher level. Observing the students’ response to this opportunity is a blessing. It is inspiring to hear an entire class of students producing such a beautiful sound.”
Tony Doroba, parishioner of St. Joseph the Worker, Orefield, is president of the GCE and GYO board of directors. He said this pilot program has come to St. Ambrose free of charge for the first year. GCE has committed equipment and instruction to offer this music education.
“We have been serving Schuylkill County for 27 years,” Doroba said. “We took the initiative to commit up to $7,000 of our operating budget – 10 percent – because we are passionate about introducing classical strings and music to the grade school students of the county. The GYO is where we showcase our youth.”
Students were very much in tune with sharing their enthusiasm for the program.
“I am happy because we get to play an instrument and most other schools don’t have that,” said third-grader Paul Zuk.
“I am happy about the violin lessons because it is new to me. I never saw one before and it is really good,” said third-grader Saxton Donton.
Fourth-grader Sara Spolski said the violin lessons “teach us responsibility because we have to remember our violins, books and stands every Wednesday. I feel like it is helping us to learn about other things like teamwork because we have to be together with the music and we have to play at the same pace.”
“I think that it is inspiring to the other students – for them to want to take lessons,” said fourth-grader Kaitlyn Hartz.
Fourth-grader Emma Bouffard said, “It is good for me because my family plays instruments and I can be in their conversations and understand.”
Boyer said general comments from fourth-graders included acknowledgement that they have to practice, and that is part of what they learned about responsibility. Plus they had to learn about the care of a sensitive instrument – like paying attention to the temperature at which both the violins and bows are stored.
Doroba said it’s very difficult to get children to try violins and classical music. “We struggle every year to seat enough violins, violas and cellos to keep the orchestra a viable orchestra versus just another youth band.”
“The GCE board of directors, together with the support of Carol and her staff, plan on offering the classical strings program in the next school year,” Doroba said.
“Additionally, we have a youth summer camp program located in New Ringgold to encourage the students,” Doroba said. “Full or partial scholarships are available to students who are genuinely interested. We want to do all that we can to keep this type of music and its appreciation alive for our youth within our area of operation.”