I remember my last lesson with Wendy Gillespie in May 2013. We discussed what were my plans in life after I leave IU. I knew I was going back to teaching orchestra and was hoping it would be high school since junior high didn’t work for me before. We came up with a plan to start The Funes, which was a program to start viol students at the high school level. The problem would be getting instruments and we were brainstorming how to get funding to buy instruments for this particular program and then where would one start. It was a great session and many ideas were discussed.
My first year teaching at Oak Ridge High School I would invite Stephanie Raby, Deborah Dunham and Sarah Mead to play viol music for the kids and then Steph and I would play at Irons an York Junior High with Erika Lawson. The kids seemed very interested in the music and we let them try the instrument. The question always was “Where do I get one?” and my answer would be “What a great question. Let me find out.”
I heard about the Viola da Gamba Society of America’s Loan Consort Program and I applied and was granted 5 viols to use for the program. The first year I had 14 students and met after school, second year I had 10 students and we met during a 90 minute class in the morning that met every other day.
Now in its third year we have 7 viol students: 2 have been in it for 3 years, 2 for 2 years and 3 newbies. Everyone who has been in this program can tell you that I start everyone with a nice lesson on how to hold instrument, hold the bow, where the notes are on the viol, and for some how to read a new clef. After that first lesson I throw music at them and they learn how to survive and all have been successful. No tears!
Its been a pleasure to have Sarah Mead come coach them during her visits from the Circuit Rider Program and Stephanie Raby continues to work with them when she is in town. I am hoping to bring in more people….when someone else says what you have been stressing for a long time they finally do it. We are getting ready for our performances in December with the Viols of Houston Gambaramba on December 9, Oak Ridge HS Orchestra Concert on December 11, and a performance at the Conservatory at Alden Ridge on December 14.
Its been a joy for me to be able to bring this instrument to these students. Whats even better is most of the alumni in this program have continued with the viol in some manner. I hope we have a reunion soon and play some more consorts!
Thank you all who have supported in the past with our trip to Boston and attending our performances in the Houston area. I would also like to the thank the Viola da Gamba Society for their support by providing more instruments to this program at Oak Ridge HS. Also a huge thanks to Susan Richter for donating a bass viol to the program.