A decade ago, Rachel Dyck’s mother saved the strings program at St. Jacobs Public School. After funds were cut, Evelyne Dyck volunteered to teach her son and other interested Grade 7 and 8 students how to play the school’s small collection of violins, violas, cellos and double bases.
When she passed away last year, her two daughters and a friend – all graduates of the program – took over teaching duties in her memory. Now, facing ongoing repair costs for the instruments, Rachel Dyck is partnering with the school and some surprising graduates of the improvised program to put on a fundraiser and show next month.
“I think she just decided it would be a good thing for the school to still have a program so she said she would volunteer to make it happen,” Rachel Dyck said of her mother’s project. “My brother actually didn’t join, which is kind of funny, but she did it anyway.”
When the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s electric violinist Mark Wood visited Elmira for a show in 2009, the program made it possible for the St. Jacobs strings group to join him onstage with EDSS and Park Manor players.
“It allows kids to develop skills that they wouldn’t ordinarily get to develop. Reading music, for one, is huge. It’s like a whole other language that a lot of people don’t really speak anymore, but I think it’s very beneficial and very fulfilling.
“I think to have kids follow through with the commitment and see that they can actually do it is why having a performance especially is really cool,” she said.
Even a member of Elmira’s Stained Glass Army, guitarist Mitchell McCloy, is a graduate of the St. Jacobs strings program. SGA had success in 2012-2913 with a national competition that earned the boys several recording and promotional perks along with a trip to perform in Quebec.
“I think my mom really appreciated his enthusiasm for the program and she saw him as someone who loves music and I think he’s pursued that,” Dyck said.
St. Jacobs PS students will play several songs during the concert along with several guests including McCloy and the Kitchener-Waterloo folk duo Quiet in the Land. Former principal Geoff Lewis, now a folk musician, will also make an appearance.
“I think he was the principal my mom originally approached. He’s going to play classic tunes on his guitar,” Dyck said.
She doesn’t know what the future of the program holds with its three instructors in the middle of their post secondary educations. Some students pick up the instruments as a hobby, others hope to play in high school and take private lessons from Dyck.
“The group we have right now has been pretty committed. Usually violin lessons are pretty expensive so it is cool that the kids have an opportunity to play.”
The program is run by three university students (Dyck attends the University of Waterloo, her sister Rebecca, the University of Toronto, and friend Lindsay Mewhiney, Wilfrid Laurier University) and has touched a number of lives, Dyck said. Her father Gerry Dyck has offered support, as has the current school principal in planning the concert.
“We thought, no matter what happens to the program it would be nice for these instruments to be in good condition.”
The instrument repairs, paid for through a private donation, were done by Riedstra’s Violin Shop owned by Henry Riedstra. His mother was the first music teacher at the school, Dyck said.
The hour-and-a-half concert takes place at St. Jacobs PS on April 3. Doors open at 6 p.m. with a 6:30 p.m. start. Donations will cover instrument repairs and future maintenance of the strings program.