Nfld. & Labrador

Hitting the high notes in Buckmaster's Circle

Strong Harbour Strings brings violas, cellos and violins to kids in one of the oldest public housing neighbourhoods in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Young students love classical musical instruction with Strong Harbour Strings

Matthew Druggett is 12, and plans to play professionally. He loves the high notes. (Todd O'Brien)

A dozen kids, sitting on plastic chairs, form a semi-circle around their music teacher.

They sit and listen, instruments in hand.

"I always liked the cello and my friends came here and I thought it was really cool. I like the deep notes," Sky Barrett-Smith, 11, says.

Her enthusiasm is shared by Reina van Theil, 10, who plays viola.

"I've been here for four years and I think this program is a really good program for kids," she says.

"This group is really inspirational. It gets you to work hard and play your instruments. It makes me free and I get to express myself in the way that I want to instead of just saying it.  You can express your joy in music."

Carole Bestvater runs the Strong Harbour Strings program in Buckmasters Circle with help from graduate students at Memorial University. (Todd O'Brien)

Carole Bestvater, the founder of Strong Harbour Strings, is a ball of energy and enthusiasm herself about the after-school program that provides free music education to children in Buckmaster's Circle and surrounding St. John's neighbourhoods.

"So the kids come, we loan them instruments. Violin, viola, cello at no cost to the families. It's really a community-building social program so we talk a lot about these life skills and we learn music and it's a really great experience for everyone involved."

'I like the high notes'

Strong Harbour Strings is a non-profit corporation that receives arts funding and is able to pay the music teachers.

"A lot of the other teachers, all of them in fact are all graduate students at MUN so they're here for training, here to learn and to study and be part of this community as well and its been amazing to connect them with St. John's," Bestvater says.

I get to play with other people and it really touches my heart.- Matthew Druggett, 12

There's a weekly group lesson and a weekly individual lesson for 22 students between the ages of seven and 12.

Matthew Druggett, 12, plays violin and has been in the program for four years.

"I like the high notes and the low notes and I'm really interested in music. I plan to carry it on professionally."

Nearly two dozen students get group and individual lessons. (Todd O'Brien)

Druggett credits Bestvater for getting him hooked.

"Carole, our instructor, came to my school about four years ago and she really inspired me by playing certain songs and I loved it. The thing about it I love is I get to play with other people and it really touches my heart."

The students also take part in musical field trips, attend concerts and hold their own public performances.

Bestvater says a number of students have been with the program from the beginning four years ago.

"They're still in it and still loving it and we plan on growing with those students."

About the Author

Todd O'Brien

CBC News

Todd O'Brien is a journalist working with CBC's bureau in St. John's.

With files from On the Go