The First Weeks of MusicWorks!

October 10, 2016

It’s been a few decades since I’ve experienced a first day of school.

But I’ve been looking forward to Aug. 10, the first day of MusicWorks! at the Heights, and it finally arrived.

As arts & entertainment writer/critic for Florida Weekly, I wrote an A1 cover story about the MusicWorks! program earlier in the year, called “Symphonic Delight.” (March 10-16, 2016 issue)

I was intrigued and fascinated by how these young kids, 5 to 7 or 8 years old, were learning about music and, in the course of just a few months, could play a song on their instrument — violin, viola, cello or bass. The program was drenched in positive feelings and encouragement, and, not only that, the kids appeared to be having fun.

I wanted to learn more about MusicWorks! I also wondered if I, an adult in midlife, who has never played in instrument, could learn to play one by going through the program.

Gulf Coast Symphony musical and executive director Andrew Kurtz and MusicWorks! program director and Gulf Coast Symphony community engagement director Melissa Barlow graciously agreed to let me sit in with the kids for a year, and I once again started school on Aug. 10.

Right now, Melissa has put me with the kindergarteners, to learn the basics.

So far, I’ve made a violin out of cardboard and started learning a song about the various parts of the instrument. My fingerboard and tailpiece are lime green and the body is turquoise.

We will be a paper orchestra!

Melissa has told me that she’ll switch me to another group in about six weeks; I think that’s when I’ll actually come face-to-face with a real instrument.

I’m hoping to play the cello, and Maestro Kurtz has promised that he’ll try to find an adult-sized student cello for me to use during the year.

I’m excited — and nervous. Will I be able to keep up with the kids? Can I actually learn how to play an instrument? Will I be able to play “Jingle Bells” and “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel” by the holidays in December?

We’ll see.

~Nancy Stetson 


Nancy Stetson is a writer for Florida Weekly in Fort Myers, FL. During the 2016-2017 school year, she will be attending MusicWorks! as a student participant and documenting her experiences in a series of blog posts and news articles.

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