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Elementary schoolers learn more than music in new string orchestra class

The youngest orchestra in Knoxville is sitting in a classroom at Beaumont Magnet Academy.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn — Once a week at Beaumont Magnet Academy in Knoxville, elementary schools students file into a special kind of class.

"Good morning class," said their teacher Jose Ramos.

"Good morning Mr. Ramos how are you today," the students replied.

Things in this class quickly get musical.

Ramos' Tuesday morning second grade class doubles as a second grade string orchestra.

It's one of five music ensemble classes Ramos teaches.

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"African drums, keyboard percussion, recorder choir, ukuleles, and the string orchestra," he said.

The string orchestra is the only class of its kind for Knox County elementary schoolers.

"I have this program from second grade all the way to fifth grade," said Ramos. "They stay with that instrument. They get good at that instrument."

Ramos is working to get grants to fully furnish all five ensembles.

A $7,000 TeacherPreneur grant from the Great Schools Partnership completed his string orchestra.

"I was able to buy five instruments, three cellos and two double basses," said Ramos.

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The grant also covered accessories for the instruments, which include violas, violins, cellos and double basses.

The kids all have their favorites.

"I like that it has so many strings," second grader Lydia Smith said about her violin.

"I like it because I don't have to put it to my neck," said second grader Abraham Eaton about his cello.

"I've enjoyed it because of my teacher Mr. Ramos," said double bass player and second grader Lucas McIntosh.

Ramos said he notices how his students are proud of the talents they're developing.

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"I'm starting to see sometimes the kids bring their own instruments just to practice at recess and that's very beautiful," he said.

Studies show learning to play an instrument at a young age improves coordination and listening skills.

Plus, the kids are learning that hard work pays off.

We asked McIntosh what keeps him going when playing the double bass gets hard or frustrating.

"Mr. Ramos," he said.

Ramos has some in-school performances planned for his ensembles, but hopes as the program grows his students will have more chances to show off their new skills outside of the classroom.