Club Orchestra, or Club O, is a collaborative effort with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and the Boys and Girls Club to get children in involved in music.
Thanks to a grant from the Auer Foundation seven years ago the Philharmonic was able to buy instruments for Boys and Girls Club participants to learn violin, viola, cello and bass.
Derek Reeves, principal violist with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, works with the group and Deb Graham, another violist, recently has been helping out. The need for an extra teacher points to the success of the class. Graham has been leading the students that are a little further along, which frees Reeves up to work with the beginners.
Reeves said the program has been going for six years. They are currently serving 22-30 children in the program, who rotate through. They are looking to expand the program once they move into a site that will have a little more space for the group.
"We have reached our upper boundaries in this space," Reeves said.
Two days a week members of the Philharmonic come to the club location on Fairfield Avenue and work with the kids for about an hour. A typical day now means 10-12 students. While students have some input on their choice of instrument, typically their body size will dictate the instrument. Generally violins are the most adaptable.
Reeves said they try to choose music that will teach the fundamentals of string playing in a fun way and are also familiar to the students, like "Mary had a Little Lamb." To give them a little more challenge as they progress Reeves said they pick more challenging pieces. Recently they were working on Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" and on Christmas carols.
"We try to find ways to spice it up a bit," Reeves said. "It's all classically based, but we introduce different styles. We have elements of country fiddle and hip-hop. Music is a language, and all the styles are different dialects."
They recently went to see Black Violin, a hip-hop duo of classically trained string instrumentalists, and the students loved the performance. The teacher of that duo is a friend of Reeves, which gave the children an even more personal connection to the performance.
During a recent session the group ran through a series of exercises. Colored markings on the necks of their instruments help students to know where to place there fingers to create different notes. The students learned how to read music as they worked on music theory. They also learned the proper way to hold the instrument and the bow and how to care of them.
Who would think a group of children would be so excited by Beethoven? However, this group was; from the minute they came in the door they were talking about playing "Ode to Joy."
Graham, who was leading the more advanced group, dangled the piece before the children as a reward after playing scales. They took the bait and by the time they tucked their violins under their chins for the final number they were all smiles. They concluded their practice with a big bow.
Watch Club Orchestra students play in video attached to this story at news-sentinel.com.