A Harmonizing Force

By LINDSEY ADKISON The Brunswick News

The parking lot of the Unitarian Univsersalist Church in Brunswick was uncharacteristically full on what was otherwise a quiet Saturday afternoon.

Outside, the hum of violin strings softly seeped through the wooden doors. Inside, the source of the sound - several Glynn County music teachers - stood in a circle, their eyes fixed on their own instructor - Maestro Luis Haza. He was charged with the task of helping teachers further their knowledge of string instruction.

The program is titled "Tutti," which in Italian is a musical term that means "all of us together." It is the beginning of a unique partnership between the Coastal Georgia Youth Symphony and the Glynn County School System.

The goal is to better support school music programs in light of dwindling resources and budgets.

Haza agreed to teach a series of three workshops focusing on how to better teach students about playing. True to his character, he kept the lessons entertaining.

"You all have heard this before but maybe not so much with the Cuban accent," the native Cuban jokingly told the eight participants.

For many, it was certainly a new experience. The teachers, who have specialized in everything from percussion to choral, have taken education courses dealing with string instruction, but for many, that was years ago. Of the teachers gathered before Haza, only three were violin instructors.

Although the other four specialized in types of music, they must offer some sort of string instruction to students.

"They are all wonderful music teachers and have their own music programs, but hopefully with my experience, I will help them to enhance what they teach the children of the county," said Haza, musical director and conductor of the Coastal Georgia Youth Symphony.

Of course, Haza has plenty of input to give. He has had a stellar career with resume items that include 36 years with the National Symphony Orchestra and 25 seasons with the American Youth Philharmonic Orchestra. He has also conducted the London Symphony Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra and the national orchestras of El Salvador, Panama and Guatemala.

With budget cuts and financial strain plaguing music programs in the county, Haza was happy to lend a hand.

The first of the lessons focused on simply addressing general problems and basic instruction.

"When I teach, my approach is very natural. I try to let the student put the violin in a very natural position, between the chin and the shoulder," he told the group. "And I try to get them to be relaxed."

He went on to discuss everything from body alignment to proper bow position for each note.

"If you can just get them to do the four positions, you have conquered a tremendous amount of technique," he said.

Haza and the teachers also hope to cover a lot of ground.

"We've already learned a lot about collaborating with musical colleagues to hear about our strengths and challenges," said Nathaniel Roper, music teacher at Glynn Academy. "It's helpful to get together and talk about what works for us."

Crystal Murphy, a violinist and community music teacher, agrees.

"(The workshops) are designed to get all of the strings teachers together and really just get us all on the same level. It's hard because some strings teachers aren't violinist," she said.

Regardless of what they know best, all of the teachers are willing to make the extra effort for one important reason: to be able to better teach their students.

Furthering the musical education of students is something each teacher believes in whole-heartedly.

"Music helps students with so many things - critical thinking, reading, math," she said. "All benefit from music."