Strings program for music students in the works

The Strings Ensemble performs with the University Singers for a Spring Choral Concert at First Baptist Church in Jackson. | Photo by Ebbie Davis

By Katlyn Moncada,Arts & Entertainment Editor

What started as a string quartet and became a string ensemble is developing into the first program for students to play violin, viola and cello together on campus.

Dr. Chris Mathews, associate professor of music and department chairman, first voiced the idea to Michael Mann, assistant professor of music and coordinator of instrumental music, when he joined the department as a visiting professor in the fall.

“We kind of began with a dream of just beginning strings at Union,” Mathews said.

Mathews said he encouraged Mann to start a strings program within three to five years, beginning with a small string ensemble and building from there.

When the fall semester started, Mathews said Mann already had found several students who were interested, and a string quartet was ready for rehearsals within the first couple weeks of the semester.

“The group solidified a little bit more in the spring and added a few players,” he said.

The program was not offered as a course but a time for students to get together and play their instruments with Mann overseeing them, Mathews said.

Paige Tang, freshman music major, is the only student who chose violin as the focus instrument for her major. She has been playing the violin for 16 years.

“The string ensemble was created for my opportunities as the one and only violin major and for those who play stringed instruments but are non-majors,” Tang said. “This is so they can have a chance to play in a group and keep up their musical abilities.”

Tang said she felt Union has needed a strings program and as new music majors join, particularly with stringed instruments, the group has opportunities to grow as well.

The string ensemble recently performed pieces with the University Singers and will perform again at 7:30 p.m. Monday with the Handbell Choir in Luther Hall.

“I think the handbell concert is a fun way to introduce the more unique side of the music department,” Tang said. “They are unusual, being small in number. We have a great group of people who can play well and are willing to learn.

“I enjoy having a little leadership in the group and practicing musical ideas and sharing them with the fellow musicians.”

In an effort to provide more opportunities and after requests from students, the department created a class for the fall semester called Chamber Ensemble specifically for those who play stringed instruments so students can earn credits.

Mann will lead the ensemble.

“We are actively seeking students, majors and non-majors alike with strings experience,” Mathews said. “We hope to develop a full-fledged string ensemble this next year, and hopefully right after that we will be starting a small orchestra.”

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