The experience at the SAA 11th Conference in Minneapolis will continue to shape the lives of the young students with East Cleveland Rainbow Suzuki Strings. From traveling via bus to another state, to performing for an enthusiastic audience at the Opening Ceremonies, to seeing professional musicians on stage, to sightseeing in the Twin Cities, to working with master violin clinician and performer Pamela Frank—ECRSS will remember it forever. These young students’ dedication and love of music also made a lasting impact on the Conference attendees.

Summer was not easy—there was no funding available for our program. Due to its state receivership status, the school district was unable to fund summer lessons as it had in previous years. In order to enable all students to participate, we could not charge an additional fee to participating families; the annual $25 per student fee is already a struggle for some. Although we were willing to donate our services to offer a regular program during the summer session, the school strongly suggested that we offer only group classes, so that there would be no chance of the individual lessons being undervalued. In addition, we did not want to risk putting its 21st Century grant in jeopardy.

In spite of this, students began the new school year full of enthusiasm and eager to learn. They continue to amaze not only their parents, but us as well, with their sponge-like learning and degree of focus. The school has had new challenges to overcome within the school this year. Chambers School has grown by three grades, and it is bursting at the seams. The three teachers share one small room for individual lessons, and group classes are held in common areas. East Cleveland was awarded a Reading First grant, which began this year. Initially a three-year program, Reading First requires every kindergarten through 3rd grade student to read for ninety uninterrupted minutes every day—imagine the scheduling challenge that provides throughout the building! The response of parents, teachers and administrators to these new challenges has reinforced to us their belief in and support of the ECRSS program. Everyone is working together to ensure that they are able to make the best of each situation that arises.

The Rainbow Strings have been busy this school year. In October, we had the privilege of performing for the grand opening of the new facility of the Cleveland Food Bank, and in November, we performed for the Council of Economic Opportunity of Greater Cleveland’s (CEOGC) annual Benefit Ball. These performances, while in different types of venues—one still a construction site, the other a black tie affair—were both very important because they allowed the students the opportunity to give something back to organizations whose mission is to help people. One of the Food Bank’s services is to provide the food for the hot meals served monthly at Chambers; CEOGC is responsible for Head Start (among other initiatives), so the children have already been impacted directly by both of these organizations.

Excerpt only. Read the complete article in the American Suzuki Journal.