Over the summer I began brainstorming this project, starting with lofty ambitions and whittling down my ideas as I saw what would become feasible for the first year. NW Portland's community center Friendly House became the host of this terrific program. Their reduced cost after school care program, 'Chaps', seemed the ideal student base to create this program for.
In early October of 2008 I held a benefit concert and silent auction event called Portland Unplugged (portlandunplugged.blogspot.com) in which many professional and youth local musicians performed to aid this program. After raising $2,500 I was able to purchase 10 violins, bows and cases (deeply discounted from a local stringed instrument shop) which I then donated directly to Friendly House.
As soon as the instruments were purchased, parents of Friendly House students were notified of the opportunity to join this 'violin club' of sorts. Currently I am volunteer teaching on a weekly basis for this program in 1.5 hour group lessons. I'm amazed at the eagerness of this group, all of whom are between 3rd and 5th grade. I strive to create a class environment that is fun and exciting for the students yet still studious and diligent in nature.
In subsequent years the program will become an entity of Friendly House, and the teaching role will be taken over by volunteer youth musicians (from the Portland Youth Philharmonic, the nation's oldest youth orchestra) or professional musicians willing to volunteer their time as teachers. With more funding and help from the community this program will expand first to a larger program at Friendly House and later to other community centers around Portland and surrounding cities.
An enlightening moment came to me during the first day I met with and sized the students at Friendly House for their violins. One student giddily shouted "I'm going to faint, this is so amazing, I've never seen a real violin before!" Witnessing the pure excitement and joy in every ounce of that student's body was an electrifying moment. While I wish for these students to become budding young classical musicians, I have realized that Classical Chaps is remarkable because it is extending a life changing hand to children of all backgrounds.