As a young girl and tender musician, Dr. Rebecca MacLeod longed for a chance to play the violin with her friends. That dream wasn’t possible because her school didn’t have a string instrument program – but it did spur her career choice.
“If I could be an orchestra teacher,” she thought, “there’d be one more orchestra program and one more orchestra for people to play in.”
MacLeod, an assistant professor of music education in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance, now trains the next generation of orchestra teachers, knowing that with every student she mentors, another child somewhere will have a chance to take orchestra in school.
Some of her students work with the Peck Elementary String Program, a music lab collaboration between the School of Music, Theatre and Dance; the Greensboro Symphony; the Music Academy of North Carolina and the elementary school. Students and faculty from UNCG and the music academy provide instruction, the symphony provides the instruments and the school hosts students eager to learn how to play the violin and cello.
The program, supported by Lillian Rauch, began in 2008 as a volunteer elective for third, fourth and fifth grade students. It’s wildly popular among the elementary students. Last year, fifth grade students elected to miss recess three times a week in order to participate in the program. The class started with a dozen students; this year, there are 60 students enrolled. “We always have more children interested than we have instruments,” said MacLeod, who oversees the project.
Students at Peck got a special treat last week when members of the Sphinx Orchestra, the nation’s only all-black and Latino orchestra, visited the school to perform, teach and inspire prior to their public performance at UNCG’s Aycock Auditorium. Part of the Sphinx organization’s vision and mission is to see cultural diversity reflected in classical music and to increase the participation of blacks and Latinos in music programs. Peck’s student population is more than 80 percent black and Latino.
The Peck string program and the Sphinx Orchestra also have a shared mission: to introduce classical music to under-served and underrepresented populations. Peck is a Title I school with a high percentage of students who qualify for free/reduced lunch assistance. “They wouldn’t have a string program — or any instrumental music program — if it wasn’t for this orchestra program,” MacLeod said. “The Peck String Program is one more way that we are trying to increase access to string instruction for students who otherwise would not have the opportunity.”
And for MacLeod, the start of another orchestra program for young musicians is another mission accomplished.
By Lanita Withers Goins