The first function is provide selected Ignatius students with violin repair skills sufficient to address violin maintenance and playability adjustment services for tuition-free music programs serving low-income families, and then mentor new club members as they come on board. This follows a classic learning pattern in poverty schools around the world.
In a middle income family, a child is given or rents a violin. Learning includes individual instruction as well as orchestra practice. When the strings or bow become worn, the private teacher and parents interact and corrections are made--but not in the middle of a lesson. In a tuition-free, non profit music school, all lessons are in group,the school owns the inventory, and when repair needs occur, the response can be quite different.
It should be no surprise that repair expenses are the first to be chopped when the budget gets tight. Most schools lack any formalized inspection regiments which causes neglect to accumulate. Teachers will not sacrifice group time to fix a stuck peg. Individual student progress is put at risk if an instrument seriously lacks reasonable functionality.
Program directors and teaching artists are not trained or equipped to address repairs. Further, while 10-year-old violinist can easily recognize a deflated soccer ball, she has no comparative experience with string instrument functionality, so, sadly, instrument malfunction is internalized as a personal shortcoming. StringWizards' outreach is specific to this situation. We help with both the maintenance and the procurement of instruments for school serving income disadvantaged families.
Please watch the first few minutes of this 15-minute video from the neuroscience department at Northwestern University on music education specific to poverty population children. (It will open in a separate tab.)
The second function of StringWizards is non profit management with an eye to college readiness for volunteer interns. We are a collegiate level, multi-discipline, social entrepreneurship experience. There are three course outcomes for the shop participants
Learn violin repair,
Manage the business side of a service organization
Publicize their awards and recognitions. In doing so, they create for themselves an opportunity to practice digital communication arts, business writing skills, and build college essay collateral.
Sample grant inquiries and guest speaker invitations have been sent to major Chicago arts foundations not for donations, but requesting mentorship. Responses have been positive and more are planned.
Advocacy for Arts has given String Wizards a first place for Community Engagement. They are sponsored by Music for All which is the nation’s largest and most influential music education association.
Basic violin setup, cleaning, and re-stringing can be mastered by an interested teen. This in turn provides the individual teen and the hosting high school with positive public service image—and maybe a summer job when countless school-year rentals are returned are area violin shops each June.
PROGRAM TERMS AND CONDITIONS
It was both by accident, and by conscious intention that String Wizards came to St. Ignatius. I am a certified violin teacher, and hold a Certificate in Music for Social Change from North Park, but in 2012, I set that post retirement career aside to provide violin repair service working on school cafeteria tables in support of non-profit orchestras serving low income populations.
In 2017, I switched from 6th graders to high schoolers, because shop need was expanding, and in the hope that older kids would be more productive and have more to gain, in addition to the artisanship skills learned. The city’s arts philanthropy world is on-board as you might imagine.
In Matthew 25 is the story of a master giving each of three servants some “talents” to invest in his absence. A broken, silenced violin is like a buried talent, and is waiting for you or some one within your influence.
If you help me promote this in your home rooms, a few St. Ignatius kids will have an exceptional response to a college application essay question that asks:
"What did you do in high school besides your homework?"
Visitors are always welcome.