November 29, 2012

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

South Georgia String Project, Youth Orchestra Perform Dec. 3

VALDOSTA — The South Georgia String Project, a joint venture of the Valdosta State University Department of Music and the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra, will present its winter concert at 6 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 3, in Whitehead Auditorium. Admission is free of charge, and the public is encouraged to attend.

Natalie Chang, administrative assistant for the project and a VSU graduate student pursuing a Master of Music Performance in violin performance, noted that Monday’s event is an opportunity for the students to showcase their hard work and dedication and the skills they have mastered since classes started in mid-September.

“Some of these students have been with us for several years and have grown into wonderful musicians since their beginning semester with the South Georgia String Project,” she added. “They have learned how to play on an individual level, but more importantly, they have learned how to play in an ensemble setting with a conductor who serves as the main collective force for the ensemble.”

Led by Lauren Burns, director and master teacher, the South Georgia String Project provides “an after-school music program where students can easily access low-cost stringed instrument instruction” and “a valuable, mentored teaching experience for music students at Valdosta State University.” Class fees are $60 per semester. There is a $120 maximum in fees per family. Limited financial aid is available.

The South Georgia String Project offers technique classes, private lessons, and group classes. Performances are held several times a year both on campus and out in the community.

Explorer Strings students, those with no previous string-playing experience who are ages 8 to 11, meet from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. Adult beginners, ages 12 and up, meet on the same days, at the same time.

Intermediate Strings is for returning and/or experienced students, and an audition is required for placement and seating. Group orchestra classes meet from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Mondays. Ear-training and sectional technique classes meet from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.

The Valdosta Symphony Youth Orchestra is a full orchestra for advanced students, and placement and seating is by audition only. This group, which meets from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Mondays, includes VSU and area high school string, wind, brass, and percussion students, as well as adult amateurs. Participating students must also play in their public school ensembles. 

Private instruction is available and recommended for all students. Weekly one-on-one lessons are arranged with a VSU string student assistant. The 30-minute lessons cost $15 each. Again, financial aid is available.

Registration for spring semester classes begins on Jan. 23, Chang said.

According to its website at, “The South Georgia String Project encourages the enjoyment of music and self-expression through the study of a musical instrument and actively seeks to provide opportunities for student leadership, parental participation, and involvement in the greater community.” It was started in 1993 and originally offered on location at area public schools and taught by VSU professors.

“It has changed so that all classes are offered at VSU and music majors — graduate and undergraduate — offer instruction as part of their teacher training at VSU,” said Burns. “Now, 12 to 14 VSU students work in the program every year, and I am the faculty supervisor. Our program has grown to offer group class for beginners, two string orchestras, and a full symphony. There are sectional technique classes, ear-training, and private lessons.”

The South Georgia String Project was named the 2011 National String Project of the Year by the American String Teacher Association.

“The South Georgia String Project is part of the American String Teacher Association’s National String Project Consortium, which consists of 42 projects at more than 24 universities and colleges,” noted Burns. “The program is designed to help alleviate the long-term shortage of stringed instrument teachers in the United States by encouraging undergraduate music majors to become public school music teachers upon graduation. Through hands-on teaching experiences with children in the community who enroll in the program, undergraduate student teachers become better skilled in managing a classroom and teaching children. At the same time, parents within the community benefit from an affordable opportunity to provide high-caliber music lessons to their children.”

Many South Georgia String Project students continue their stringed instrument studies in college. Some have performed with the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra.

Contact Lauren Burns at or visit to learn more about the South Georgia String Project.

On the Web:

Faculty: Dr. Lauren Burns, lecturer in viola at VSU, Azalea String Quartet violist, and principal viola of the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra; Dr. Howard Hsu, music director of the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra and director of the Orchestra Studies Program at VSU; and Matthew Mainella, assistant conductor of the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra

Student Teachers: Tugce Bryant, Daniela Cruz, Claudia Encinas, Larissa dos Santos, Mariana Krewer, Danielle McNeil, Maria Santacruz, Sara Seligosky, Da’Nette Stevens, Mario Rivera, Joshua Weathers, and Jenny Zimler

Valdosta Symphony Youth Orchestra: Max Wang (concertmaster), Gabriel Bickerstaff (violin), Liam Bickerstaff (violin) Catherine Blakenship (violin), Albert Kang (violin), Danielle McNeil (violin), Emmilee Millner (violin), Martha Milner (violin), Sophia Noll (violin), Ah’leesa Phillips (violin), Alexandrea Shavers (violin), Natalie Shell (violin), Jenny Zimler (violin), James Candelario (violin), Leah Harris-Clark (violin), Daniela Cruz (violin), John Paul Bickerstaff (cello), Kayden Candelario (cello), Hayley Milner (cello), Virginia Arce (bass), Joshua Weathers (bass), John Tyler (bass), Tyler Johnson (bassoon), John Pope (bassoon), Arielle Hooks (clarinet), Alexa Luper (clarinet), Morris Bagley (flute), Asayla Everett (flute), Sheridan Peterson (flute), Joel Hyer (horn), Garry Morales (oboe), Justin Long (trombone), Joshua Watford (trombone), Darrian Johnson (trumpet), Kyle Lanzillo (trumpet), Jean-Marcel Scutt (tuba), Johnathan Thomas (timpani), Chris Chao (percussion), Nancy Davis (percussion), Kristen Hull (percussion), and Leslie Smith (percussion)

Concert Strings: Ah’leesa Phillips (concertmaster), Albert Kang (violin), Natalie Shell (violin), Haekyong Burch (violin) Christina Hopson (violin), Arielle Hooks (violin), Gabriel Bickerstaff (violin), Sophia Noll (violin), Marquezshia Madison (violin), Martha Milner (violin), Priyanka Gupta (violin), Amelia Kumpel (violin), Liam Bickerstaff (viola), Nephtali Santiago (viola), Kayden Candelario (cello), John Paul Bickerstaff (cello), Virginia Arce (bass)

Viola Class: Samantha Arce, James Candelario, Liam Bickerstaff, and Nephtali Santiago

Explorer Strings A and Adult Strings: Alyssa Marie Davis (bass), Austin McMichael (bass), James Bickerstaff (cello), Paula Harrigan (cello), Marlen Georgina Kassum (cello), Samantha Marie Kassum (cello), Elizabeth Kumpel (cello), Phoebe Kumpel (cello), Lucy McMichael (cello), Ashley Nicole Smith (viola), Kellie Wilkes (viola), Ainsley Armstrong (violin), Marshall Armstrong (violin), Jaida Brown (violin), Tronaisha Cody (violin), Sydney Corbett (violin), William Correll (violin), Fiorela Garcia (violin), Jennifer Hummel (violin), Maggie Hummel (violin), Jessica Lynn James (violin), Nicholas Paoletti (violin), Allison Grace Parker (violin), Mattie Ryan (violin), Olivia Villella (violin), and Glory Wilkes (violin)

Explorer Strings B: Thomas Spradling (bass), Samantha Spradling (cello), Elena Arce (violin), Mayson Branch (violin), and Isabel Kassum (violin)

Allegro Strings: Samantha Arce (viola), Kennedy Caldwell (violin), Lawrence Choi (violin), Zykia Graham (violin), Brandon Washabaugh (violin), Julia Alexys Willis (violin), Justice Dylan Willis (violin), and Kayden Wrights (violin)