WARREN - Learning to play violin wasn't something that five students from Warren thought they would ever be doing. Nevertheless, Sunday afternoon found them performing a custom piece written by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Yehudi Wyner alongside the Warren Philharmonic Orchestra at the Christ Episcopal Church.
"I think this program is going to save some kids' lives," Kevin Stringer said with tears in his eyes.
Stringer is the program manager at the 21st Century Community Learning Center, one of the sponsors of the after-school violin program "Strings of Joy."
Tribune Chronicle / Margaret Thompson
Willard School students Jalen Chaney, left, and JaNice Yartz, center, follow the instruction of Natalie Sahyoun as they play with the Warren Philharmonic Orchestra on Sunday afternoon at Christ Episcopal Church.
The philharmonic orchestra donated the use of violins while the school used funds to pay for their teacher, Natalie Sahyoun, of the philharmonic orchestra.
For the past several months, the middle school students - Jalen Chaney, JaNiece Yartz, Lariah Coker, Malachi Coker and India Stovell - were taught the basics of how to play the violin.
From how to hold a bow properly to how to draw it across the strings, the building blocks of playing are what Wyner said he used to compose "Maze." The lively and sometimes brooding piece was well received by the audience and the students' families.
"I didn't want to write anything until I could hear what they were doing, how they were playing," Wyner said. "That was my task, to invent a composition to surround them with a featured role and built on those materials to make something continuous ... and not stupid."
The students followed the lead of Sahyoun as the orchestra was conducted by Susan Davenny Wyner. The students had about five sessions to practice the actual piece.
"That's less than a professional," Sahyoun said.
All of the students agreed that they weren't very nervous about playing in front of the crowd of about 100 people and were glad to continue their violin lessons. Several of the students said they were directed to the program by their band teacher, but never expected to be playing violins.
"This is a beautiful day, to expose the kids to something they otherwise wouldn't be exposed to, being from an urban district," Stringer said. "It's bigger than the violin, they see the opportunity to do anything they want to do."