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Just a stringin’: Symphony’s summer camp teaches students about music

By Rebecca Rider
rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — For the kids who take part in the Salisbury Symphony’s Summer Strings Camp, even performing on stage is a lesson.

During a pause in the music, teacher Carter Bradley mimes the fingering of notes and leans in to whisper to his class of beginners.

“You can do it, a little bit more energy,” he tells them.

The budding musicians work their way through songs like “Hot Cross Buns” and “Ode to Joy” on violins and cellos. But their short performance couldn’t capture the work students and teachers have accomplished in five short days.

“They have done amazing things this week,” Symphony Music Director David Hagy told family members.

Students ranged from elementary to high schoolers, of all different skill levels. Those in the beginning class started on Monday by learning how to hold an instrument, how to move their bow properly and how to form notes.

By Friday afternoon, they were ready to play — putting on a small concert for family and friends. Intermediate and more advanced students also performed.

The Summer Strings Camp was sponsored this year by the Salisbury Symphony and AkzoNobel Global. Incoming Executive Director James Harvey said that when people donated to the symphony things like the Summer Strings Camp were the result. Donations allowed students to attend on scholarship, free of charge, and to “rent” symphony instruments.

“This is what’s happening with that money,” he said.

Lynn Bowes, symphony education director, said the camp has been going each summer, without fail, for approximately 15 years. But those who participate said they hope it lasts for many years more.

“I want to come next year,” student Peyton Weaks said.

Weaks played cello in the beginner class this year — but she’s played violin before, she said. And while she’s been in symphony programs before, this week was something special.

“I loved it,” she said.

“My week was pretty awesome,” a beaming Malachi Overcash said.

This is his third year participating in the summer program. A native of the Greensboro area, Malachi stays with his grandparents for a week each summer to participate in the program.

Malachi said he found playing string instruments relaxing.

“I love classic instruments and I love music,” he said.

“He just loves being around it — the whole family does,” grandfather Randy Overcash said.

Overcash worked with the symphony for many years, even serving as its education director and running the Summer Strings Camp in previous years. But it’s an experience that has touched Malachi in a way that’s visible to others.

“’We’ve gotta find him a teacher,’” Overcash said Malachi’s mom told him.

In addition to learning how to play music, students are also learning key aspects like how to work as a team, and studies have shown that playing music can help boost a child’s learning in other subjects, as well.

“Music education increases pretty much the entire brain,” Bowes said. “It’s such a vital part of life.”

And while the program only lasts a week, it has effects that last far longer. Retiring Executive Director Linda Jones said that the students will never again attend a concert without appreciating the amount of work musicians put into their craft. Harvey called the group the future of classical music — whether they choose to play or merely appreciate.

Teachers agreed.

“They are not learning this for today — they are learning this for the rest of their lives,” teacher Margaret Rehder told family members.

The week also imparts a few intangible lessons, as well.

“It gives them a sense of pride, of accomplishment, of belonging,” Bowes said.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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