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 younger students as they come on board. This follows a classic pattern in poverty schools around the world.
In a middle income family, a child is given or rents a violin. When the strings or bow become worn, teacher and parent interact, and corrections are made, but not during lesson time. In a tuition-free, non profit music school, the school owns the inventory, and when this inevitability arises adult response can be quite different. SW outreach is specific to that situation. We help with both the maintenance and procurement of instrument inventories for school serving income disadvantaged families.
It should be no surprise that these expense categories are the first to be reduced when budget shortfalls occur. In 2013, coming aboard as a violin teacher, with an aircraft maintenance background, I was surprised to further discover the lack of any formalized inspection regiments to monitor the level of acknowledged accumulating neglect. This neglect can and does become a serious obstacle to individual student progress and the cumulative orchestral sound.
Music school program directors and teaching artists are not trained nor are they equipped to address repairs during contact hours. 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.
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 college readiness for volunteer interns. We are a collegiate level, multi-discipline, social entrepreneurship experience edited back for a secondary school setting. 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 college essay collateral.
Sample grant inquiries and guest speaker invitations have been sent to major Chicago arts foundations requesting mentorship--not funding requests. We are self funded. Responses have been positive and more are planned.
String Wizards has been given the Advocacy for Arts Award in the category for Community Engagement by which is the nation’s largest and most influential music education association.
Several energies coalesced to create this program. 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.
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 for entry-level violin restorations across 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 older kids would be more productive and have more to gain, well beyond the artisanship learned. The city’s arts philanthropy world is on-board as you might imagine.
In Matthew 25 where a master gives each of three servants some “talents” to invest in his absence. A broken, silenced violin is like a buried talent.
If you help me promote this in your home rooms, a few St. Ignatius kids will have an exceptional response to a college application where it asks:
"What did you do in high school besides your homework?"
Visitors are always welcome.