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No strings attached: UT students offer free music lessons through new program

The String Project is a nationwide initiative to offer lessons and instruments to children who wouldn't normally have access. It's in its first year in Knoxville.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — With no strings attached, students in the University of Tennessee's College of music are giving back. 

"One of my colleagues brought up the idea of starting a String Project in Knoxville to help connect our school to the community and provide lessons to students who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to study stringed instruments," Dr. Geoffrey Herd, Director of the UT String Project, said. 

The String Project is a nationwide initiative to offer free lessons and instruments to kids who wouldn't normally have access.

It's in its first year, locally. 

"Since we've gotten the grant, we've only been able to teach online. Normally, a String Project would have robust group lesson programs so that you can teach as many students as possible, and they get to work in an ensemble setting, but right now because of the challenges to the pandemic, we're not able to get teachers to the schools," Herd said. 

 "It's been a little tricky teaching online, but I am so excited about it," Karen Christie, one of the volunteer student teachers, said. 

 "The students are very eager to learn, and they're very happy learning the instruments we have," Varissara Tanakom, another student teacher, added. 

After months of virtual lessons, Tanakom, Christie, and the other teachers recently met with students in person to rehearse for a spring concert. It'll be the first time any of the kids will perform for others. 

While this pilot year for the program at UT is small with only six students at two schools, Herd hopes they can grow even more next year.

"We see this program over a number of years growing to include over 100 students at least. But, I would estimate if we're on the campuses of the schools directly and able to roll out our entire curriculum, I would guess we'd have between 30 and 50 students register next year.  And, we would hope to see maybe a 10% growth rate every year for, for a number of years after that," Herd said.