August 13, 2015

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

South Georgia String Project Begins Sept. 9

Valdosta State University’s Regional Center for Continuing Education hosted a special session of the South Georgia String Project May 18 through Aug. 5. Twenty-three students ages 8 to adult spent their summer studying stringed instruments through group classes and private lessons. This fall, stringed instrument instruction returns to the university’s Department of Music. Registration is open for new students, and classes begin Sept. 9. Visit to learn more.

VALDOSTA — A joint venture of the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra and the Valdosta State University Department of Music, the South Georgia String Project is tuning up for another memorable musical season.

At 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 9, in the VSU Fine Arts Building Choir Room, the South Georgia String Project will conduct an informational session for new students. This will be followed at 6 p.m. by a meeting for all returning students.

Led by Dr. Lauren Burns Hodges, director and master teacher, the South Georgia String Project provides an after-school music program where students ages 8 and older can easily access low-cost stringed instrument instruction. It also provides a valuable, mentored teaching experience for music students at Valdosta State University.

Class fees are $60 per semester, with a $120 maximum per family.

The South Georgia String Project offers technique classes, private lessons, and four levels of group classes for children and adults who want to study violin, viola, cello, or bass. Performances are held several times a year both on campus and out in the community.

First semester Explorer Strings students, those with no previous string-playing experience, meet from 5 p.m. to 5:50 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. Second semester Explorer Strings students who meet certain criteria meet from 4:30 p.m. to 5:20 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays.   

Allegro Strings is an intermediate orchestra open to returning and/or experienced students without an audition and meets from 5:30 p.m. to 6:20 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Concert Strings is a string orchestra open to returning and/or experienced students by audition or recommendation of the director and meets from 5:30 p.m. to 6:20 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays.  

The Valdosta Youth Symphony Orchestra is a full orchestra for advanced students; placement and seating is by audition only. This group, which meets from 6:30 p.m. to 7:20 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. Kellen Gray, assistant conductor of the American Prize-winning Valdosta Symphony Orchestra, leads this group.

Required placement auditions for seating in Concert Strings and the Valdosta Symphony Youth Orchestra will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 9.

Private instruction is available and recommended for all students, including those who wish to study piano. Weekly one-on-one lessons are arranged with a VSU student assistant. The 30-minute lessons cost $15 each.

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.

“Now, 12 to 14 VSU students work in the program every year, and I am the faculty supervisor,” said Hodges, noted violist. “Our program has grown ….”

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

“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,” said Hodges. “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 Hodges at or visit to learn more about the South Georgia String Project.

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Valdosta State University’s 2013-2019 Strategic Plan represents a renewal of energy and commitment to the foundational principles for comprehensive institutions.

Implementation of the plan’s five goals, along with their accompanying objectives and strategies, supports VSU’s institutional mission and the University System of Georgia’s mission for comprehensive universities. 

The story above demonstrates VSU's commitment to meeting the following goals: 

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