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Purdue School of Engineering and Technology

Purdue School of Engineering and Technology

String ensembles help adults recapture their musical passion

July 1, 2016

Members of the advanced IUPUI String Ensemble, from left, include: Vijay Lulla, Theresa Crawford, Tina Mahern, Debra Des Vignes, Fatima Hussain, Kevin McKoy, Ingrid Metzger and director Shannon Crow.

Members of the advanced IUPUI String Ensemble, from left, include: Vijay Lulla, Theresa Crawford, Tina Mahern, Debra Des Vignes, Fatima Hussain, Kevin McKoy, Ingrid Metzger and director Shannon Crow.

Imagine that your youthful dreams of being a music performer, the ones you left behind when college and career plans took over, have started popping up on the edges of your memory, encouraging you to pick up your instrument and begin anew.

Shannon Crow knows those feelings. In fact, it's part of what leads people from the campus and the community to the music lessons she teaches for the IUPUI Music Academy, including the adult string ensembles.

"For a lot of people, the true joy is being able to make music with others," said Crow, who has four students in her beginners' ensemble and nine in her advanced group. She also offers private lessons through the Music Academy, based in the Department of Music and Arts Technology in the School of Engineering and Technology, which gives her an opportunity to share her love of music with youngsters from age 4 to adults of any age.

"Some people want to learn the violin, or another instrument, because it was not available to them when they were younger," Crow said. "Others want to dust off their instrument and make music with others. But most enjoy a group experience, and that’s what we offer."

Crow teaches classes for both beginning and advanced ensembles, which she started in January 2015. And while students pay for the classes, the sessions are also celebrations.

"People of all ages can make great progress in a private lesson, but I don't think any of us has more fun in our week than the hour we spend together [in ensemble practice] every Friday," she said. "Over the last 16 months, our group has become a family that helps each other, encourages one another and laughs together."

Debra Burns, the music and arts department chair, believes the classes are an excellent way for IUPUI to meet an Indianapolis community need.

"People can rediscover a part of themselves that they might have thought was lost forever," Burns said. "Music can be a big part of our lives without us realizing it, especially as children. It can enrich our lives and fill them with passion. That is a big part of what the Music Academy tries to provide."

That passion knows no age limitations. "Anyone over the age of 18 can participate in our ensemble," Crow said. "Since we started our groups, we've had people in their 20s all the way to their 60s." 

And each year, the ensemble members achieve their dreams of being part of a performance group in the academy's fundraising Performathon in the Artsgarden in Circle Centre Mall.

Members of the advanced IUPUI String Ensemble.

IUPUI String Ensemble members share a few moments at the Artsgarden. From left: Vijay Lulla, Andrea Hayden, Ingrid Metzger, director Shannon Crow, Rebekah Stergar, Tina Mahern and Kevin McKoy. | ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE STRING ENSEMBLE

Helping a community make beautiful music

The IUPUI Music Academy is in the midst of a nine-week course to learn an instrument, but the academy offers courses throughout the year on campus, giving adults the opportunity to learn or rediscover the joy of playing violin, viola, cello or upright bass in a fun, safe environment.

Adults age 18 or older are welcome to sign up; you do not have to be enrolled at IUPUI -- or at any school -- to participate. The cost for the nine-week summer session is $72 per course. Classes take place on Fridays.

Courses are available at both the advanced and beginning levels. In addition, the academy offers private lessons for children ages 4 to 6. To learn more or to check the Music Academy schedule, visit the academy website or contact Yvonne Gray at ygray@iupui.edu.