Under the guidance of Bill McNeiland, Music Director, the St. Augustine Orchestra has provided several hands-on experiences for local schools. “String zoo” volunteers perform a short piece written for two violinists, a violist, a ‘cellist, and sometimes a bassist. Next, the players demonstrate the ranges of the instruments; then they invite the children to explore playing them. There are several instruments to try, thanks to Mr. McNeiland’s sources and MurrayMiddle School. The volunteers involve the children in holding the instruments and moving fingers and bows–quite a feat when done at the same time–resulting in smiles, giggles, and fascinated concentration. “Any experience with the arts stretches the mind and opens up new possibilities,” says McNeiland “and we are just as delighted as the kids to have this opportunity to share music with them.”
During the past school year, students from Osceola and SouthWoodsSchools have participated in string zoos. The EMMA Concert Association along with the Jack Page Project has funded violin and guitar purchases for Osceola, and provided 16 violins for the WebsterSchool. Charles Rogers and Sheryl Nelson, respectively, are the music specialists who provide instruction on the instruments while volunteers from the Orchestra assist.