Arts and Entertainment

Two nights, 961 strings musicians


Staff writer

Classically soul stirring music played on stringed instruments by youthful orchestras will resonate in Federal Way in the coming weeks. The annual Federal Way Strings Festival is free to all and can be heard March 25 at 7 p.m. at Thomas Jefferson High School and April 1 at 7 p.m. at Decatur High School.

Chairman of the festival, Brent Irwin, says that he particularly looks forward to the grand finale, Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. In this performance audience members will be given paper bags which they will be directed to blow up and pop during the performance to simulate canon fire.

All 961 students in the Federal Way strings program, from fifth graders through high schoolers, will perform on at least one of the evenings. Irwin remembers that 15 years ago so few students were involved that they had to be bused from different schools in order to assemble enough people to play together. Now, every school has a strings program.

Guest conductor Heather DeHart says that a strings program in the public schools opens the world of music to everyone, not just the select few whose parents can afford private lessons and expensive instruments. DeHart taught music in Federal Way from 1997 to 2001 and has now gone to Central Washington University to study for her Masters Degree in Strings Performance and Pedagogy. She will be conducting the junior high students at the March 25 performance. She hopes that some of the students she taught in elementary school will remember her.

“I enjoy the art of inspiring,” DeHart says. “This event is about giving the students the aesthetic experience, to help them see why they do this: is it because their parents make them? All of them do it by choice. This is to help them enjoy it.”

Such a performance is also important to keeping the arts alive and well in Federal Way, DeHart says. After completing her graduate studies, Dehart says that she would like to return to Federal Way to teach, but she says that there is some danger that some music programs will be cut from the schools which would affect whether she could return.

Chairman Irwin also says that there was a possibility that eventually elementary orchestra programs would be eliminated. He says that if community members do not want that to happen they should tell the school board.

Staff writer Kenny Ching: 925-5565

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