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Fledgling Fiddlers

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The notes sometimes screech and scratch enough to set teeth on edge.

Even so, when the 2nd graders at Bryden Elementary School in Beachwood, Ohio, draw bows across their violins and pluck at the strings, the tune of "Hot Cross Buns" emerges in a more-or-less identifiable form.

The budding violinists are participating in "Introduction to Musicianship With the Violin as a Medium," a pilot program designed to acquaint students with the instrument and to inspire their interest in music.

"The goal is not to develop polished virtuosos," says Molly Weaver, a music instructor who helped design the program. Instead, says Lee McMurrin, the district's superintendent, the goal is to cultivate "musicianship on a bonafide instrument."

During a total of six 30-minute classes, students work on such basic violin skills as the correct positioning of the violin and bow, posture, pitch identification, and good tone production.

Each student receives a violin for the duration of the program. After two weeks of hard work, they are permitted to take their instruments home to show off their new talents to their families.

At the beginning, the children practice technique and form using a plastic straw--an appurtenance that is considerably less unwieldy than a bow in the hands of a 7- or 8-year old.

Quickly enough, though, the potential music makers have switched to bows and begun tackling "Mary Had a Little Lamb," "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," and other elementary-school favorites.

"They don't sound like the Cleveland Orchestra," Ms. Weaver readily concedes. But nevertheless, she says, the songs are "recognizable and can even sound quite good."--jw

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