Strings Initiative Program

School of Music

When a high school student in the South chooses to study music, they typically take band courses due to the cultural emphasis on football. Choir is also a popular choice, which leaves string programs struggling to maintain a secure place in the curriculum. In Knox County, string programs exist in approximately one quarter of the high schools. This is due in part to arts program reductions in the 1980s, but also to the shortage of licensed string educators.

Strings Initiative Program

Faculty in the UT School of Music countered the problem in early 2000 and partnered with teachers in the Knox County School System to offer string education classes in elementary schools. Now closing in on its second decade, graduate students with the UT Strings Initiative Program provide free instruction of fifth grade string courses at Blue Grass Elementary School and Farragut Intermediate School. They also benefit from one of the most generous assistantships in the country.

“One of the most unique aspects about our program is that a graduate teaching assistant position can be awarded to individuals with a bachelor’s degree in string performance,” said David Royse, coordinator of music education. “The appointment may last up to three years while they pursue the master of music degree in music education and complete teacher licensure. The assistantship even pays for the student teaching semester.”

As a result of the program, administrators in Knox County and surrounding schools systems have hired several licensed string educators. Students in the Strings Initiative Program reach a level of proficiency in the first year that allows them to take part in summer string camps, join a middle school orchestra, and even audition for the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra.  

“An added benefit to the university is these talented graduate teaching assistants also play in our symphony orchestra,” Royse said. “So aside from the outreach to elementary schools and preparing string teachers, UT benefits from a quality string player.”

The Strings Initiative Program is sponsored by the UT College of Arts and Sciences and Knox County Schools.