- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) - When Keisha Cook wants to get her students’ attention, she sings for them.

It’s not just any ordinary song either. She grabs their attention with a little opera.

“Yelling gets old,” she said, with a smile.

Cook, who grew up in Bedford, is living out her lifelong dream in Kokomo. She gets to combine her three passions - violin, opera and teaching.

Cook is a teacher at Wallace School of Integrated Arts.

Her primary job is to teach the elementary school students how to play violin. But she sneaks little opera lessons in when she can.

Principal Charley Hinkle said she’s a great asset at the school. It’s like having an artist in residence all of the time.

“She’s a singer, a violinist and a teacher,” he told the Kokomo Tribune (http://bit.ly/1lVcwMD ). “She’s a versatile music artist. That’s a good combination for us.”

Cook started playing violin when she was 9 years old, primarily because she has tiny hands.

She said she wanted to play some instrument, any instrument. She didn’t care. She’d been waiting for years to be old enough to play.

Her teacher asked her questions like whether her parents were big or small, tall or short. When the teacher found out she came from a family of short people, Cook got a violin.

It’s not an easy instrument to play. Her parents endured years of squeaking and whining on the instrument, she said, with a laugh.

“Making a rich, pleasant sound on the instrument is difficult,” she said. “It takes hours, days, years of playing. You have to find that sweet spot on the string.”

Her students are finding that out now. Every day, kids are asking her why they still sound so bad. They can play songs, she said. Those songs just don’t sound very good yet.

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