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Music Grant Provides New Instruments for Corvallis Students

Mike Lawson • News • October 22, 2015

Music instructor Emily Athman has 34 students in the high school orchestra class – so large they are too big for her classroom and the students set up in the lunch room, between meals. “We make the most of our time available,” said Athman. “The students set up the rehearsal space and then reset for lunch.”A grant program that was set up in remembrance of a local musician is now providing new musical opportunities for students at Corvallis High School and Middle School. The Corvallis orchestra program has received a generous grant from the Aaron Bolton Memorial fund.

Music instructor Emily Athman teaches students how to play stringed instruments in orchestra classes at Corvallis. She said the grant money was used to purchase two cellos, two violins, and a 14-inch viola for orchestra students in grades five through 12.

“It is an exciting time for the students as they have new instruments the 2015-2016 school year,” Athman said. “These were really needed because our program has expanded. We worked with Jenn Adams of Rooted Music to get the most instruments for the grant money. Jenn Adams was a huge help, showing me instrument options at different levels of quality. I was able to select instruments that filled the grant amount and gave us quality.”

Martha Ilgenfritz, principal bassist with the Missoula Symphony, started the string program at Corvallis in 2000. She taught the students string techniques, conducted concerts and provided opportunities by writing grants to get the instruments that are still in use. The program has been a success with the high school orchestra, which has won competitions and has prepared Corvallis High School graduates to play in community, college and professional orchestras.

Sophomore Kristen Saturday has been playing stringed instruments for the past six years. She started with the violin and moved on to the cello.

“The new instruments are very nice,” Saturday said. “Some of the old instruments are kind of chipped and broken down. This has a nice resonating sound. The instruments are very handy because sometimes we need to take an instrument home and this makes it possible.”

Freshman Sydney Powell played on a new instrument. She said it played well and felt great. She started learning the violin with private lessons when in fourth grade.

Senior Mollie DuBose also played a new violin.

“It was amazing and very smooth,” she said. “The strings are very tight, and I had to rosin it for a full minute. It was very fun to play with a brand new instrument. I liked it, and I can tell I’m really improving.”

At Corvallis schools, fifth-grade students who take a music class start with the violin. After a year, they can select another instrument to continue learning. By high school the students have learned enough instruments to have a full orchestra.

Athman has 34 students in the high school orchestra class – too many for her classroom. Students set up in the lunch room for rehearsal space between meals.

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