Page 20 - Salem Magazine Spring 2015
P. 20

                                 Our Schools
  No Strings Attached
A Salem businessman keeps school music
 W program alive. By Mike Stevens
hen a member of the Roanoke Symphony’s board of directors approached Salem businessman Nick Powell about funding a unique musical partnership with the Salem School Division,
he opened his checkbook without hesitation.
“Joe Ferguson asked me if I would be willing to front the money
to bring this program back,” says Powell. “We agreed to start it and, hopefully, we will eventually attract other sponsors and make it even bigger.”
Over 70 Salem students are participating in the program.
Symphony Violist Bryan Matheson teaches methods.
Salem Tool President Nick Powell and Roanoke Symphony Education Director Sarah Wardle Jones were recognized at the March School Board meeting by Chairman David Preston and Assistant Superintendent Curtis Hicks.
 The project Powell is funding this school year is the “After School Strings” program where Salem’s elementary and middle school students learn how to play the violin with personal instruction from members of the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra.
“Any time that you are working with kids and teaching them new skills it is very rewarding,” says Sarah Wardle Jones, the Education Director for the Roanoke Symphony. “We couldn’t be more thrilled about this partnership with Salem Tool and Salem City Schools because a big part of the symphony’s mission is to entertain and educate.”
When Powell, who is the president of Salem Tool, agreed to pay for the program’s return, school officials predicted around two dozen students would take part in the classes. Instead, 72 Salem school children are immersed in music with the benefit of professional instruction.
“Studies show that fine and performing arts are important components of a well-rounded education and we are overwhelmed by these participation numbers,” says Curtis Hicks, Assistant Superintendent of Salem City Schools. “While we have outstanding music programs in all of our schools, budget constraints had limited our ability to offer strings instruction until Salem Tool got involved.”
 The tuition-free program only requires that students rent an instrument and buy a book. If they are financially unable to do so, then assistance also is available to ensure their involvement.
“I’m excited that it has been so successful, because when you put a little money out there and see that it’s creating synergy and opportunities for kids, then it is money well spent,” says Powell. “Plus, I think from the symphony’s viewpoint, you can’t just play music, you have to get out and be totally integrated into the community.”
Powell’s daughter-in-law, Shaleen Powell, is a violinist with the RSO and one day in the future a Salem student from one of these classes could very well follow in her footsteps.
“In our youth programs we have a string orchestra and a youth orchestra and we wanted to make sure that we started training kids in Salem so that they could become part of the pipeline that feeds our youth orchestras, our audiences and maybe even our professional orchestra one day,” says Jones.
SPRING 2015 |

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