January 15, 2010

Youthful violinists will entertain at King breakfast

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Guests at the 28th Annual Martin Luther King Commemorative Breakfast at Southern Illinois University Carbondale on Monday, Jan. 18, will see an example of the dream in action as a group of elementary school students entertain with violin music.

The John Thomas Strings Touring Group from the Carbondale Elementary School District, with special guests from the Meridian School District in Mounds, present a short violin performance during the program.

The breakfast begins at 7 a.m., with a program, including the violin performance, beginning at 9 a.m. in Grinnell Hall on the SIUC campus. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Carbondale Branch, sponsors this annual breakfast event. Tickets are $5 and are available at the door.

Paula Melton, director of the SIUC Community Music School and the John Thomas String Program, said she felt deeply honored for the invitation, noting that she was particularly grateful to Linda Flowers both for the invitation to participate in the program and for her help, as principal of Carbondale’s Thomas Elementary School, in establishing and continuing the violin program.

“When we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, we celebrate opportunity and education in this great country,” she said. “And that’s what this string program is -- it is an opportunity for children in public school to learn a musical instrument when they otherwise might not have that chance.”

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn recognized the John Thomas String Program, when he was lieutenant governor, designating the program as the state model for the 2006 Illinois Violin Initiative.

At Thomas Elementary School, every second and third grader learns the basics of the violin, thanks to the strings program established by SIUC with the help of the internationally renowned Cavani String Quartet, violin donations and grants. Students who give up one recess a week make up the John Thomas Strings Touring Group.

This year, Melton helped bring the program to Alexander and Pulaski counties, where students in Cairo and Mounds now have the chance to learn violin. Melton said the program has proven to help students discover a side of themselves that enhances positive qualities, such as leadership abilities and commitment to skill development.