- Associated Press - Sunday, March 30, 2014

FAIRMONT, W.Va. (AP) - Christopher Dickey is helping students face the music at Rivesville School.

Students began learning to play the violin in their general music classes, making Rivesville’s music program the only one in Marion County that offers training on string instruments.

Dickey played and studied string instruments in college and focused primarily on guitar.

This is his first year teaching music in Marion County.

“Strings are my main focus,” he said. “They’re really my passion.”

The first few weeks of music class at Rivesville focuses on the basics of music, and then students move on to more hands-on learning that includes learning to play guitar, piano, recorder, percussion and now violin.

He started out with two violins, using them for demonstrations when he taught a unit about the orchestra’s strings section during class.

Students were interested in more than a demonstration, though.

A few children asked to take the instruments home, and Dickey allowed it. Then, the entire class wanted to take them home, so they had to come up with an alternating system to allow each student time with a violin.

Dickey used county funds given to him at the beginning of the year, along with some fundraising money, to purchase 12 violins from a friend who owns a music store - enough for each student in grades six through eight to have his or her own during class.

They started playing in March.

First, they learned how to pluck the strings and how the instrument should sound. Dickey taught them the correct posture, how to hold the violin and how to get a desirable tone.

Now, they’re moving on to reading notes and associating each note with strings and position on the actual violin.

There is tape on the neck of each violin to indicate where students should put their fingers, but they have to listen to know if they’re exactly right.

“Strings do something that a lot of other instruments can’t, and that’s focus on fine motor ability. When a student plays a string instrument, they’re focusing on very fine motor abilities in their fingers,” Dickey said. “They’re also focusing on very fine tuning issues with their ear. There are little intricacies of tone and of pitch. They gain a much greater awareness of pitch and tone quality than they do with some of the other instruments.”

Dickey’s plan for this year was to incorporate the violin program into the established music curriculum, and then see what happens from there in terms of making it an after school or other separate program from music class.

He hopes students will be able to demonstrate proper form and posture by the end of the school year, and also to be able to instantly recognize notes when they look at written music.

“I want them to be able to perform a small recital at the end of the year,” he said.

The students are responding to the program well so far, Dickey said, and he is impressed with their progress after playing violin for just three weeks.

“I’ve got some kids that you would think have been playing for six months, and they’ve only been playing for three weeks,” he said. “As soon as I got these (violins), they went out and they begged their parents and got their own violins. I sent home practice materials with them.”

Dickey’s students are starting to all build more arm strength and dexterity in their fingers.

“They learn so much more than just the content of music,” Dickey said.

He argues that students involved music programs do better in school over all, and they get better at multitasking and learn values like teamwork.

“Our slogan for the music program is ‘passion, purpose and perfection.’ That’s one thing I’ve taught these kids to live by this year, and if there’s only one thing I can get them to grasp, is that when you have a passion, you need to put a purpose to it,” Dickey said. “That’s what we’re doing in music class.”

Perfection, in Dickey’s classroom, means that each student does his or her very best and tries to better themselves every day, he said.

They started putting a purpose to their passion of music at the beginning of the year when they learned to read music, using acronyms an mnemonics to help them remember notes. They were also asked to identify notes on a quiz every class toward the beginning of the year.

Students are expected to be able to identify 40 notes in 40 seconds by the end of the year.

While Dickey hopes his students take music class and strings program seriously and work at their newly learned skills, he also wants them to enjoy the opportunity to have the only strings program in the county.

“The biggest thing is really just to have an enjoyment of the instrument and get a chance to play something that they may never get to play again,” he said.


Information from: Times West Virginian, https://www.timeswv.com

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