Nicole Parks knows the value of music education. Coming on board in September as the new director of UMass Lowell’s String Project, she wants to share the experience of learning—and teaching—music to K-12 public school students from the Merrimack Valley who might not otherwise have a chance to learn to play classical stringed instruments or perform on stage.
Founded at the university in 2001, the String Project is a music program UMass Lowell where music students serve as teaching artists in the program, mentoring young musicians and conducting performance ensembles. Participants typically perform two concerts a year for family, friends and the public.
“Programs like this are absolutely imperative for a thriving education for children,” Parks said. “We hope to fill in that gap for as many students as we can and offer an education that can apply to other parts of their lives as well. If you’re learning music, you’re not just learning about the mechanics of putting a violin on your shoulder or what the notes are; it’s collaboration, listening skills, deciphering what you read on sheet music into a concept that you then try to translate into a sound, and being able to collaborate and work with your peers. Students pick up on these things really quickly in music classes, which can be transferred to their other educational pursuits.”
The program’s holiday concert, a free performance for the community, takes place Tuesday, Dec. 19, at 7 p.m., at UMass Lowell’s Comley-Lane Theater inside Mahoney Hall, 870 Broadway St., on the university’s South Campus. Free parking will be available next to the venue in the Broadway/Riverview Lot.
Parks is a violinist, teaching violin and viola and leads conducting courses. She also conducts UMass Lowell’s University Orchestra.
Participants enrolled in the String Project meet Tuesday and Thursday evenings each semester and are grouped into a variety of different ensembles, which are led by UMass Lowell music students.
Parks sees great value in the paid teaching experience UMass Lowell students receive as instructors in the program. “Most music majors will be teaching at some point in their careers, and this gives them hands-on experience that they can use to apply for jobs when they graduate,” she said.