A girl plays the violin

Students at Edna L. Toliver Intermediate School (Danville Independent) are able to participate in a free after-school program to learn stringed instruments. The program is made possible with money from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund.
Photo courtesy of Jane Dewey

Edna L. Toliver Intermediate School (Danville Independent) has partnered with the Heritage Area Strings Program (HASP) to create a free after-school program where students have the choice of learning how to play the violin, viola or cello.

The music classes are offered once a week for 2nd-through-5th-grade students at Toliver.

Once the basics are covered, students have the opportunity to receive further instruction through community-based classes offered by HASP. The program has a lending library of instruments so students do not have to buy their own.

The after-school strings program is being made possible with Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act. The federal funding supports the safe and sustained return to in-person learning and expands equity by supporting students who need it, particularly those who were the most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jane Dewey, director of arts education at Danville Independent, said the school will use ESSER funding to continue the program through the next school year.

“My job is making opportunities happen for kids, and this program is just another way that that’s happening,” said Dewey.

Yamare Carter, a 5th grader, is an active member of the after-school strings program.

“I like going to after-school strings class because you get to play the instrument and then play with other people,” Yamare said.

Robin Kelly, principal at Toliver, encourages students to experiment with new extracurricular activities.

“For me, [the program] is one more avenue and one more opportunity because we want everybody here to be connected with something they’re passionate about, or even something that they just want to try and see if they’re interested in,” Kelly said.

In addition to the classes, the program includes concert performances in December and early May.

“I love seeing Yamare and all of her classmates playing,” said Dewey. “Being able to go from not being able to make a sound at all, to making that first screech on the instrument, to playing together as an ensemble.”

The after-school strings program encourages learning both inside and outside the classroom. Kelly believes that if students are involved in the arts, they will learn more efficiently in their other classes.

“If kids look forward to participating in these extracurricular activities, they are much more likely to be successful in the classroom,” Kelly said.

Both Dewey and Kelly attribute the program’s success to Jaleeta Edwards, the program’s main instructor, Heather Gover, Mary G. Hogsett Primary School’s music teacher, and Valerie Hildabrand, a music teacher at Toliver., who all have helped support the after-school strings program.

The program is making an impact on students by introducing them to this new musical world

“I like … how different some instruments can be [and] how they all make different sounds,” said Carter.