String Project finds harmony in community

Hearing a child's first draw of a bow across the strings of a violin can make your ears bleed, but for University of South Carolina graduate student Katie Holaway, it is music to her ears.

Holaway is the assistant director of the String Project at the School of Music and says that the String Project is what drew her to Carolina.

"I am a product of public-school string instruction," Holaway says. "I see the value in the students not just going to academic classes, but having that creative outlet and doing an instrument. It's an important part of K-12 teaching because you get academics and the arts. It's more well-rounded."

The String Project, now going into its 40th year at Carolina, is a community outreach program that teaches string instruments to students ages 8 through 80.

Classes are taught by music education majors, who enter the String Project their first day on campus, assisting the beginning classes and working their way up to teaching.

"They get all of this experience teaching and they go into a classroom and they feel so comfortable when they get into student teaching or they've gotten a job," Holaway says. "They know what to expect in the classroom and they are just really excited to work with students."

Holaway is starting her second year in the String Project. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, she worked her way south to the University of Alabama, where she mentored students in string education there and found her passion for teaching.

After graduating, she came to Columbia to get her master's and work for the String Project.

"String Project was a big reason for me coming here," she says. "The other universities I had looked at did not have the same kind of service-learning environment to be teaching and working on my degree at the same time."

She says her favorite memory was seeing how excited her students got when they performed at the Koger Center this past semester.

"Seeing how excited they are to learn to play a string instrument and to learn new things, it's nice to see that in the students," Holaway says. "At that age, they just eat up all of that knowledge and they think everything is so cool and exciting. That feeds you as you're teaching because you get hooked to seeing how excited they get."

The teachers at the String Project work with their students every semester and love making an impact. Holaway says the highlight is being able to help the students grow as string players and as individuals.

"I love the teaching and getting to work with the students. I love getting to work with the undergraduate teachers and getting to bounce ideas off of each other and getting to collaborate as string educators," Holaway says. "Seeing the difference that it makes in the students' lives and how much they gain has been really rewarding."

Learn more

To learn how you can support innovative outreach programs like the School of Music's String Project, visit Carolina's Promise.

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