FHSU's Western Kansas String Academy receives Mockingbird Foundation Grant

Fort Hays State University's Western String Kansas Academy was awarded a grant from the Mockingbird Foundation to pilot a new "Alternative Strings Exploration" program.

The group was one of 15 groups selected from 300 applicants for the $5,000 award.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for us to broaden our string students' musical horizons," said Cathy Drabkin, acting director for WKSA. "There's a whole world of musical styles that use string instruments. There's no reason to only play classical music all the time. We'll be exploring fiddling, jazz improv, blues, folk and other non-traditional styles of music, maybe even using electric instruments."

The project involves two separate components.

In May, a teacher training will be held on how to teach non-classical music to string students. "We felt that we needed to train our own WKSA instructors in non-traditional string music to increase their familiarity with particular skills and techniques before we could teach our students," said Drabkin. "Julian Lyonn Leiberman, a nationally known educator, presenter and performer will be the guest clinician for the workshop, which will also be open to string teachers and music majors throughout the state."

In June, the academy will offer a two-week day-camp for area string students to learn and perform non-traditional string music. Students will meet two to three hours a day, participating in a variety of learning and rehearsal activities that will culminate in two public performances.

"We hope to perform in high-visibility locations, get out of the concert hall and into the open air so to speak," said Drabkin.

The Mockingbird Foundation is a historical fan club of the band Phish, which raises money and gives grants for music education for children. Since its inception in 1996, the foundation has awarded nearly $500,000 to schools, churches, youth groups and community centers throughout the United States. Additional support for WKSA's Alternative Strings Exploration project is being provided by Knilling Violins, Yamaha Strings and Shar Music.

The Western Kansas String Academy is a Saturday moring music education program offering youth orchestras, guitar classes, music appreciation classes, music appreciation classes, private lessons, and chamber ensembles for string players ages 5 and up.

For more information about WKSA and its programs, contact Drabkin at (785) 623-4187 or e-mail cadrabkin@fhsu.edu.

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Kent Steward, Director   |  ksteward@fhsu.edu  |  Kurt Beyers, Assistant Director   |  kbeyers@fhsu.edu