South Park Magazine

Snapshot: Courtney Hollenbeck

Third Grade teacher Courtney Hollenbeck poses for a portrait with some of her violin students at Winterfield Elementary School.
Third Grade teacher Courtney Hollenbeck poses for a portrait with some of her violin students at Winterfield Elementary School. JAMEY PRICE

Looking for a way to keep her students engaged, Winterfield Elementary School teacher Courtney Hollenbeck brought in her violin to her second-grade class to help illustrate the “science of sound.” One of her students was so enchanted by the instrument she asked for lessons. Hollenbeck, who is also a Winterfield Youth Orchestra teacher, launched an afterschool violin program in 2006, and has since taught more than 30 kids. Hollenbeck’s efforts caught the attention of the Charlotte Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, which is honoring her with the Outstanding Champion of Diversity award during the 2011 National Philanthropy Day Awards. More info: www.afp-charlotte.org.I was motivated to start the violin program because at that time there weren’t a lot of things for the students to do after school. I played in my school's orchestra, and I decided to try to begin something at Winterfield. I ended up purchasing three violins off eBay and began teaching some second-grade students after school once a week. By 2009, I had extended the program to two days a week and expanded it to include drums and the cello. The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra got involved because by the 2009 school year I had around 30 students signed up for the program and was unable to get them enough violins. I knew the Charlotte Symphony had an educational component, so I contacted them and explained the program and they were able to provided new instruments and they also sent out instructors to help teach. We also received grants last year for three concerts. This year we’re planning on adding a woodwind and brass group, and also choir and music theory lessons. (Symphony violinist) Rosemary Furniss was able to join us last year, and she was so helpful. She came in about once a month, most often near concert dates. In January, the students were able to play with the Charlotte Symphony at Belk Theater for two of their scheduled performances because of her. She also helped plan the February and June “Connecting Families Through Music” concerts, which are held at the school.I think it’s important that young kids are exposed to music because it gives them something to do and something to look forward to. Many of our students aren't exposed to anything but what they see and hear in their neighborhood. When I was teaching first grade, we went on a field trip and passed Lake Norman, and the majority of the students thought that was the ocean. The students in my program have gotten a lot of experiences outside of the Winterfield neighborhood. Music also helps with academics; it teaches them to listen, to work as a group, to read and it increases their math skills. I have had a lot of great memorable experiences since it all began, but my two great moments were the two nights my students got to perform at Belk Theater alongside the Charlotte Symphony and received a standing ovation from thousands of people.

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