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File is:  1StringWizards/DePaul/to teachers/Teacher Ltr 1.docx

Draft Letter to the teachers and staff


There are two primary functions to StringWizards (SW). 


The first function is providing high school music students with violin repair skills sufficient to address violin maintenance and playability adjustment services for tuition-free music programs serving low-income families.   In a traditional music education profile a family owns or rents an instrument.   When it starts to crack or rattle, several adults interact.  In a tuition-free music school with its own inventory, no such circumstance exists, so SW outreach is specific to that situation.  We help with both the maintenance and procurement of these instruments.   


It should be no surprise that these expense categories are the first to be reduced when Non Profits are confronted with budget shortfalls.  I was surprised to discover the lack of any formalized inspection regiments to monitor the level of accumulated neglect, which, viewed in combination, becomes a serious obstacle to individual student progress and orchestral sound. 


Program directors and teaching artists are not trained nor equipped to address or even ameliorate this issue 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.   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 and their academic readiness and what music education can provide.  It is a “What must be done?” moment.



The second function of StringWizards is college readiness for volunteer interns.  We are a collegiate level, inter-discipline, social entrepreneurship experience edited for a secondary school setting.  There are three course outcomes for the shop participants:  1) to learn violin repair, 2) to manage the business side of a music and arts service organization dedicated to inner city needs, and 3) to serve and publicize shop itself as a classroom model Non Profit Organization, and in doing so to create for themselves an opportunity to practice and simultaneously acquire résumé writing skills and build college essay collateral, and REALLY network within Chicago’s social service and music worlds.     


Other Thoughts

Sample grant inquiries and guest speaker invitations have been sent to major Chicago arts foundations requesting mentorship--not funding.    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 and cleaning and re-stringing can be mastered by an interested teen.  This in turn provides the teen and the hosting music organization with positive public service publicity—not to mention a reduction in in-house maintenance costs, and maybe a summer job.

What also surprised me was the ease with which the local violin trade stepped up to cooperate with used parts, and surplus inventory. 






It was both by accident, and by conscious intention that String Wizards came to DePaul Prep.  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.   About two years ago, I switched from 6th graders to high school kids, because the need is too great, and older kids will have much more to benefit well beyond the artisanship involved, if we together can provide a hands-on platform where they learn to operate the shop as a arts service Non Profit.  The city’s arts philanthropy world is on-board as you might imagine. 


It was a Jesuit-educated Baptist pastor at LaSalle Street Church who got the message across to me about the parable in Matthew 25 where a Master gives his servants some “talents” to invest in His absence.  A broken, silenced violin is like a buried talent.   That’s one in the picture below.






What did you do in high school besides your homework?  If you help me promote this, a few DePaul Prep kids will have an exceptional response, in that college interview, with a digital portfolio, and a talent that says,  “I made a difference, and I’m not done.


I would appreciate a homeroom endorsement.   Visitors are always, always welcome. 


Terry Miles

PROJECT //  02


We don’t think about learning as the acquisition of discrete pieces of information, but rather as the exploration of an intricate web of connections and complex relationships — and we weave fundamental questions of meaning and value into our explorations.

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