Urban Strings, making music a priority for minority children in Columbus, Ohio

Posted on: April 29, 2015

“The melody was classic, but the beat was modern. Catherine Willis could only smile as 20 young musicians from Urban Strings launched into If Carmen Was a Sista, a bouncy, hip-hop-tinged take on the famous 19th-century aria ‘Habanera’ by Georges Bizet,” writes Kevin Joy in Tuesday’s (4/28) Columbus Dispatch (Ohio). Willis, 82, a former kindergarten teacher, founded the ensemble in 2007. “Her goal with Urban Strings: to nurture black youngsters in classical music. … ‘I’m not sure people understand how important the arts are to children,’ she said. Willis, who grew up learning the piano in Cleveland public housing, used classical tunes during her three decades as a teacher in Columbus schools. … Although all elementary schools in the Columbus district offer beginning string classes, Willis knows that the families of many minority children lack the means to take part. … Halle Craig, an upright-bass player from Lewis Center, values the exposure. ‘It allows me to learn more about my culture,’ said the 17-year-old, who, beyond Urban Strings and the orchestra at Olentangy Orange High School, will perform during the summer in Europe with American Music Abroad, a national program.”

Posted April 29, 2015