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2nd-and 3rd-Grade Violinists Make Strings Sing at Abbottston Elementary

ESSER funding gives students immersive musical education

“Time for a game of windshield wipers!” may not be what one expects to hear in a music class. But when it comes to violin, the game helps master the bow-hold, a foundational skill when learning to play the instrument. Abbottston Elementary 2nd and 3rd-graders are instructed on how to hold the bow and challenged to move it like a windshield wiper without losing their grip. 

Thanks to Abbottston Elementary’s commitment to the arts and Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funding stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 100 students are studying and playing the violin twice a week in class and after school. 

“My students are absolutely loving it,” effused Ariel Wirsching, Music Teacher at Abbottston Elementary. “When I showed them the many genres of music using the violin, they were awestruck. They’re so excited to learn, and I couldn’t be more thankful to work with them.” 

The process for teaching future virtuosos starts small. Ms. Wirsching guides students using the Suzuki Method - a well-known approach that emphasizes ear training and infuses learning with games. For example, students may simulate straight bow strokes on the violin by moving their bows on toilet paper rolls placed on their left shoulder- a fun challenge that gamifies the process of developing the right posture. In addition, they are challenged to name parts of a violin and taught how to take care of, respect, and celebrate their instruments - all foundational components of being a musician. They even do “finger pushups” to build fine motor skills and finger strength! 

Student plays violin

Next, students learn about the strings, explore pizzicato (plucking) and soon after, try their hand at using the bow to create sounds. They play simple note patterns along to a variety of songs, from hip hop to classical, and even work on beginner tunes like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. It’s a fun, immersive and accessible experience where every student can express themselves and experience the joy of making music. 

And they’ll have plenty of time to do it. This year, Ms. Wirsching created an after-school club to expand students’ practice and instruction time. They’ll soon be showing off their skills, sharing their music with the school community at the end of year concert on June 7. We can’t wait to hear them! 

The impact of the experience is transformative. “Every kid should have the opportunity to play music,” explained Ms. Wirsching. “When a student is strong in music, they become more confident everywhere else. Being able to comfortably feel moved by artforms like music at a young age while knowing you are in a safe space to express that emotion is just enormous. I find that in our classroom, and I’m so thrilled to see how it’s impacting our students.”

Student plays violin

Ms. Wirsching plans to significantly expand the program next year by creating multiple ability levels in the after school program, letting students take instruments home to practice and ensuring students continue playing violin through their final, 5th-grade year at Abbottston. 

To learn more about the district’s growing commitment to the arts through expansions such as this strings microarts program and ensuring that every student in the district has access to enriching, hands-on arts experiences, visit baltimorecityschoolsfinearts.org.

 

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