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Violin Virtuosos

by: SUBMITTED - Violin instructor Kelsey Aronstein leads her students in a concert performance. Aronstein offers lessons twice a week to students in Woodburn's After School Club program.When Woodburn After School Club announced it would offer a violin class, it was music to dozens of students’ ears.

The program, available thanks to the 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant, has allowed the district to hire Kelsey Aronstein, a Portland native who has a Bachelor of Arts in violin performance from University of Oregon and who developed her own curriculum for teaching violin to small groups of young students. Aronstein offers the lessons twice a week in both middle schools and all four elementary schools in the district.

“It’s always been in my heart to do a music program,” she said.

She had developed the program from scratch for another school, but when it fell through, her only income was from private lessons. The mother of one of her students, Brenda Jensen, happens to be the elementary school coordinator for Woodburn’s after school program, and was able to bring in Aronstein.

The instruction is free and open to After School Club students only. If students can’t afford the instruments, Aronstein and Jensen work to make sure they get assistance.

“Some of the students have rented instruments, but those who couldn’t afford it received one of the 27 that the After School Club owns,” Jensen said. “When those ran out, Kelsey went out into the community and drummed up sponsors for the remaining students so no one was left out.”

Jensen recruited six sponsors from her church and a seventh in her mom. She also was able to negotiate discounts with Uptown Music in Keizer.

As a result, there are more than 50 students in grades 4-8 who have participated since the program launched in October. They even had their first concert in the high school lectorium in December. Admission to the concert was a can of food, so, with a crowd of about 200 people, they were able to donate 200 pounds of food to AWARE Food Bank.

“It was amazing to see the kids glowing and the parents glowing,” Aronstein said. “This is a huge blessing.”

Not only is Aronstein ecstatic, but so are the students. Larissa Fregoso, a fourth-grader at Lincoln Elementary School, even said that the only reason she looks forward to After School Club is because she has violin lessons.

“I like the violin because my uncle started playing it when he was a kid like me,” she said.

“I like it because my teacher is really nice and I get to learn new songs always.”

French Prairie Middle School eighth-grader Ana Varillas said she already plays three other instruments, but she “always wanted to play violin because it has a beautiful tone.”

Language arts teacher George Roberts hooked her up with a violin that his wife no longer played.

“He knew I couldn’t get one so he said I could have it,” she said. “He knew I had good potential, I guess.”

Students say they’ve learned a lot, such as “Be careful with the violin — it’s delicate,” from fourth-grader Edward Lopez Ramos, and “Try your best because it’s a good instrument to play,” according to fourth-grader Belinda Lopez Ramos.

Jensen said she is grateful for all the people who supported the class behind the scenes, including Karen Armstrong, director of Woodburn After School Club, Sonia Kool, director of instructional services, and Erica Waite, the maintenance department secretary.

“The support that we receive from all of the school sites helps to encourage our students to do their best,” Jensen said.

Looking ahead, Aronstein is pumped to get her students ready for a spring concert.

“It’s amazing where the violin has taken me,” she said.

“To not have had private lessons myself but to be where I’ve been, that’s what inspires me to help these kids. I’m super passionate about drawing that fire and talent out of them.”



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