Playing violins, violas, and cellos, and one bass, some 200 young Islanders filled the Performing Arts Center with music on Thursday at the Winter String Concert, a showcase event of the All-Island Elementary String Program.
In existence since 1986, the program offers string instruction to every interested child in all the elementary schools. Students are initially introduced to the music through the so-called Suzuki method, which focuses on individual learning strengths, before moving on to more classical training.
Nancy Jephcote, a full-time string teacher, has led the program for 10 years. Chelsea Pennebaker has been a half-time teacher for the last five years, while accompanist Carol Loud has been with the program for 22 years. This year, Ariadne Nevin has been helping on a volunteer basis.
Depending on community support for its continued existence, the program is unmatched anywhere in the state, according to Ms. Jephcote. During her tenure, enrollment has grown from less than 100 to more than 209 this year.
On Thursday, the repertoire included a Seitz student concerto and Handel’s Entrance of the Queen of Sheba. The stage nearly disappeared when the entire troupe came out for the rousing finale — a big, boisterous “interpretation” of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” the tune that many beginning string players tackle first.
Islanders who are not familiar with this remarkable community music program will have another chance to hear the fruit of their musical labors in May, when they will perform again.