Stringin’ on the beach

(Back row) Micha Fortin

Musicians’ heads weave back and forth in synch with their bows, almost willing their violins, cellos and violas into creating unique tones.

Almost as striking as the beauty of the music is the fact that a decade ago, the Greater Victoria School District’s strings program was nearly silenced.

“For me it was really sad … I am a firm believer in the philosophy of what music can do for education,” said Natanis Christensen of the Festival Orchestra Parents Association, a group that helps facilitate district strings events.

“Some people have basketball or football or math. For some students it is music.”

Her daughter, Jadia, and fellow Reynolds student Quinn Willson – along with hundreds of other young musicians – are enrolled in the program today, thanks in part to a change in philosophy at the district level 10 or so years ago.

“I started strings in middle school and I love it with a passion,” Willson said. “I am so excited to be in this group.”

She is in both the band and strings programs at her school, but has a special affinity for her instrument of choice, the viola.

“I love the elegance and grace. It is great to have band, because there is so many types of sounds,” she said. “But it takes away from the individuality of the instruments.”

Violin player Micha Fortin started taking private lessons in Grade 4, following in the footsteps of her older brother. Today she plays because of the way her violin makes her feel.

“You are really pulling the sound from the strings,” she said. “There is so many ways to manipulate it and so many ways to express a feeling.”

She, too, is enrolled in the after-school senior strings program at Reynolds and believes her involvement helps her academic studies. It gives her motivation to get through classes she is less enthusiastic about – and provides an outlet at the end of a long day.

“It is a way to express yourself without necessarily telling everyone exactly what you are thinking or feeling,” she said. “(Strings help) put that into music.”

Today she can’t imagine life without strings. “I would have felt a little bit betrayed by the school system (had strings been cancelled). “A lot of kids enjoy this and it helps a lot of people.”

She and Willson will join performers from across Greater Victoria June 10, playing songs from their school portfolio during Bach at the Beach, one of Fortin’s favorite performances of the year.

“It is a really cool event because you don’t have to sit in the bleachers in the school or a stuffy auditorium,” she said. “You can sit on the beach … and have live music floating through the air. It’s a nice sendoff for the summer.”

Bach at the Beach runs from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at Willows Beach.

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