Elgin Youth Symphony adds free “Starter Strings” for fourth graders

Posted on: October 27, 2021

Matthew Sheppard, the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra’s artistic director and conductor, helps fourth-grader Luis Medina at a Starter Strings class. Photo: Rick West

“One by one, fourth-graders gasped with excitement as they each opened their recently acquired instrument cases,” writes Rick West in Monday’s (10/25) Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL). “The students at Oakhill Elementary School … were the first participants in a pilot program started by the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra. Starter Strings is a free program that brings classical music education … to students who otherwise might not have the opportunity. ‘For a long time, we’ve understood there are obstacles to participating in classical music,’ said Eric Larson, executive director of the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra…. Starter Strings is a first step in addressing that…. Matthew Sheppard, EYSO’s artistic director and youth symphony conductor, is teaching the first school-year-long session…. EYSO worked with the Elgin Area School District U-46 school to offer the program…. It was opened to all interested fourth-graders…. With 49 fourth-graders at the school, Sheppard thought they would be lucky to get seven of them to sign up…. But 36 signed up and have attended the first three weeks of classes…. ‘It kind of blew our socks off,’ Sheppard said. Oakhill music teacher Kristine Cooper … said, ‘It just shows the kids want it. They’re craving it.’ ”