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Volume 24, Number 11 — December 2017

Academy of Strings

Students at Academy of Strings in Johnson City, Tenn.
Students at Academy of Strings in Johnson City, Tenn.

By Angela Wampler / A! Magazine for the Arts | March 27, 2012

The Academy of Strings was formed in Johnson City, Tenn., in 1991 by a generous gift of $50,000 from the late Mrs. Ruth Harris, who wished to establish an Academy that would use music as a tool to foster well-balanced children through arts education. Today the Academy provides music education to more than 80 students.

Master violinists and teachers Tim and Kim Barrett lead the Academy's "human education" program, based on the popular Suzuki educational method. The Academy, hosted by Central Baptist Church in Johnson City, Tenn., offers violin instruction including group lessons to youth ages 4 to 18. The most advanced students at the Academy participate in The Ambassador Strings, a touring, recording, and concert ensemble, which has performed for thousands at various outdoor summer festivals and symphony orchestra concerts.

Both Tim and Kim began their violin studies at age 12, and both graduated from the Talent Education Institute in Matsumoto, Japan, where they studied with Dr. Shinichi Suzuki.

Tim graduated from the Wanda L. Bass School of Music at Oklahoma City University with a master's degree in Violin Performance. He was a participant in the 2005 and 2007 Starling-DeLay Symposiums on violin studies at the Juilliard School in New York City, and serves as concertmaster of the Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra.

Kim graduated from West Chester University with bachelor degrees in Music Performance and Music Education. She also holds a master's degree in Violin Performance from the University of Tennessee.

At the Academy, Tim says, "We have a 50/50 mix between traditional and home-educated students. The experience lends itself well to home-educated families who wish to supplement with quality music education and performance.

"Music is used as a tool to teach good study habits, work ethic and discipline — all of which are required to be successful in today's corporate world. Hundreds of our students have become successful in all facets of society, including attorneys, business owners, police officers, physicians, engineers, and educators. Although the principal goal of the Suzuki method taught at the Academy is not necessarily to crank out professional concert violinists, some students do pursue music careers. Sarah Compton is now a music major at UT-Knoxville. Cameron Lugo is the Concertmaster of the Symphony of the Mountains Youth Orchestra and (at press time) is scheduled to compete with other national finalists during the Music Teachers National Association's National Conference."

Tim notes, "At the Academy, no entrance exam or audition is required, so students wanting to develop and educate their musical abilities on the violin may do so. Most private teachers are not able to subsidize a student's desire to take lessons without compensation. In recent years, through local fundraising activities and grant monies, the Academy has been able to subsidize a limited percentage of tuition for students who were not able to afford the full cost of tuition. Unfortunately, this type of grant fluctuates from year to year, with annual applications and decisions that are affected by the economy in general."

He concludes, "Probably the most important way private instruction enhances a student's performance is that a private teacher can address individual needs of the student which may be very different from what an orchestra teacher is available to address in a group setting. What is learned during the private lesson (personalized technique) is what, in most cases, enables the student to perform 'above average' in the classroom setting. Additionally, private instructors can collaborate with school teachers for special sessions which may include sectional rehearsals and lectures."

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- Other Private Instruction