National String Project Consortium (NSPC)

String Projects: Leading a dual legacy.

Training tomorrow’s string educators while
providing accessible string instruction opportunities for youth and adults

The NSPC is committed to furthering its dual legacy established in its original sites with the following:

  1. To prepare emerging string instrument music educators for success through hands-on teaching experiences, deliberate mentorship, and collaborative professional development while directly addressing the national shortage of highly qualified string teachers.
  2. To provide equitable access to inclusive and high-quality string education opportunities for students of all ages in communities of varied backgrounds and needs.

What is a String Project?​

String Projects provide practical hands-on training for prospective teachers during their college years. As a result, the undergraduates who teach in these programs gain valuable experience prior to taking a job. These programs also attract string players to the teaching profession by giving them stipends for teaching in the program. As a result of this experience while in college, music education majors often discover whether they enjoy teaching before actually entering the field; those that find that they do not want to make it their career may decide to change their majors before getting their first job. On the other hand, performance majors at colleges often discover their love of teaching children as a result of their positive experiences in a String Project.

According to an article in the November 1998 edition of the American String Teacher journal, the ‘guiding principle…. of a string project is to provide college string majors with teaching experiences while providing pedagogy classes or supervision over a number of semesters in order to prepare the college students for private or public-school teaching while promoting the talents of pre-college string students (Hurley, 1998). The first String Project began in 1948 at the University of Texas at Austin. The USC String Project at the University of South Carolina is the model for the National String Project Consortium grants, which have funded most of the established String Project sites.

85

average number of students at a site

250

new public school teachers in the past five years alone

5

emerging sites

12

AVERAGE NUMBER OF STUDENT TEACHERS PER SITE

The Program

  • Children typically in the elementary grades are recruited from local public,  private, and home schools to study in a String Project site.
  • The teachers recruit at the beginning of the school year to children in the community.
  • Local newspapers  and radio stations publicize information about the String Projects. Emails are sent to area principals and fine arts coordinators to inform them about the opportunity for students.
  • People who are interested in the program are invited to come to an informational and registration meeting held at the university.
  • Beginning students attend first-year classes. These classes meet once or twice a week.
  • The Master Teacher, who has many years of teaching experience, guides the group class teachers.
  • Second-year students typically attend a group class one to two-times a week. Many second-year students also begin Orchestra at this time. Teachers continue to receive feedback from the Master Teacher.
  • After the second year, students attend private lessons and group performance classes.
  • All students are expected to participate in their own school programs, if they exist, in order to be in the String Project.
  • Some String Projects also have an adult component. Adults have the opportunity to learn a string instrument  in a group class setting.

Undergraduate
String Education Students Teach

The teachers in the program are mostly undergraduate string education majors and some are performance majors. The String Project is not necessarily part of the regular undergraduate curriculum; instead, first-year teachers are accepted into the program and given a paid assistantship. The assistantship stipend is used as a recruiting device and encourages high school students to consider majoring in music education.

By the time student teachers of the String Projects graduate, these students have had four or five years of practical training and experience and prepared to begin teaching independently in a public or private school setting. Outside of the String Project student teachers study their own major instruments, secondary stringed instruments, and take pedagogical methods and technique courses, in addition to the standard undergraduate music education courses of study.

While at the String Project student teachers not only attend a weekly organization and pedagogy meeting, they actively participate in all the activities of a professional teacher: recruiting students, planning lessons, writing report cards, keeping records, conducting orchestras, teaching beginning classes, teaching second-year classes, coaching chamber music, teaching private lessons, setting up rehearsals, organizing recitals, etc.

One of the additional benefits of having college students beginning to teach early in their careers is that it solves retention issues. Student teachers sometimes discover whether they really want to teach; those that do not usually change their majors prior to their student teaching experience in their senior year (or often even after they have their first job!).

During their first year in the program, student teachers observe and assist with group classes or orchestra. After the first year, they are assigned to teach private lessons and other activities depending on their interest, ability, and maturity. By the time they graduate, student teachers will teach individual and group classes.

The Master Teacher is a part-time instructor who has taught in the public schools for many years. The master teacher is the model for student teachers and provides feedback and pedagogical teaching strategies.

The Director of the String Project is either the string music education professor or an applied string instrument professor at the university. At many String Projects the Master Teacher and Director are the same people and it is part of the professor’s teaching load. Graduate assistants also take the place of the Master Teacher in some String Projects as they provide feedback and pedagogical strategies to the student teachers.