Thursday, July 30, 2015

UTSA music faculty, students teach inner-city students to play instruments


Students from local school districts learn to play instruments in the Downtown Strings Project.
>> View the full-sized video on the UTSA YouTube channel. (Video by David Deering)

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(Nov. 23, 2010)--UTSA Department of Music faculty and students are teaming up to bring the joy of music to inner-city elementary school students through the Downtown Strings Project.

Now in its second semester, the project is providing low-cost musical instruction in violin, viola, cello and guitar to 72 students in the Edgewood Independent School District and neighboring school districts.

The Downtown Strings Project is funded primarily through the Charlotte Louise Dashiell and Lota M. Spell Endowment. In 2008, a $1.2 million estate gift was made by their families in their honor to establish and maintain music education programs for children and train music teachers devoted to teaching.

Support also has come from contributions and equipment donations by San Antonio Ford and Lincoln-Mercury car dealerships and local music stores.

"This is also a great opportunity for UTSA music students who are serving as instructors all over San Antonio to learn how to teach in socioeconomic conditions with school children who may have different needs," said Eugene Dowdy, UTSA associate professor of music and Downtown Strings Project director.

Students receive hourly after-school instruction at beginning and intermediate levels twice weekly on the ground floor of the Durango Building at the UTSA Downtown Campus.

Dowdy hopes that once these students learn how to play an instrument in elementary school, they will continue to be involved in music and perform in secondary schools or with the Youth Orchestra of San Antonio.

"Research shows that there is a clear correlation between music study in the early years and cognitive abilities," said Dowdy. "Children's minds open up, and they work as a team to reach a goal and become well-rounded individuals. We see that kids in All-State Bands and All-State Choirs have SAT scores significantly higher then their classmates."

One of the students in the project is 11-year-old Robin Villareal, a cello player and fifth grader at Price Elementary School in the South San Antonio ISD.

"I think it's interesting because it shows the beauty in music when I hear the cello," said Villareal. "When I hear the cellos it sounds like they are singing and I am hearing their voices."

Raymond Tijerina, a 35-year-old father of a third grader, appreciates the opportunity his daughter Zoe is being given to learn how to play the violin.

"Being from the South Side, I think it's great because usually our kids don't get these kinds of opportunities," said Tijerina. "If kids learn something when they are young, you never know where it can lead."

UTSA music faculty members Eugene Dowdy and Matthew Dunne teach and coordinate the string and guitar classes. UTSA students Gabriela Torres, Tom Vela, Joshua Kroft, Gabriel Balderrama, Martin Sanchez and Jake Ramirez serve as assistant administrators and instructors.

>> When fall semester classes are over, the students will perform in the Downtown String Project Winter Concert at 5 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 2 in the Buena Vista Theater at the UTSA Downtown Campus.



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