Island Strings began its 40th year of teaching this year and the number of lives touched in that time is nearly uncountable.
Beginning in 1974, three instructors including Linda Good, Paula Pugh and Linda Morris began the teaching partnership at South Whidbey Elementary School with 22 students.
For Good, founder and teacher of the network, the number of students she’s taught surpasses 1,000. She has been teaching stringed instruments such as the violin, viola, fiddle, guitar, banjo and piano since 1969. The number of students since then is “tricky,” she said, because of the many different facets she, and her fellow teachers, are involved in teaching.
The network has grown to include four core teachers in addition to more than 15 associate and former teachers. Students in the network perform regionally and at many community events such as the Maxwelton Parade, Coupeville Music Festival, Island County Fair and Choochokam.
Instructor Kat Fritz was key in helping that growth, Good said.
Good teaches the Suzuki Method which incorporates language into the lessons for students so they to learn music similar to the way they would learn a language. The instruction relies heavily on a triangular relationship between the teacher, student and parent.
Good uses several languages in her lessons. She keeps a list of counts written in several languages tucked in her violin case for quick reference.
“For me, I feel if you can speak two different languages you are a better musician,” she said.
Good, who is also a volunteer at the Northwest Language Academy, said learning the different tones and expression is beneficial for musicians.
“You become better at memorizing, which is part of the Suzuki Method,” she said. “It helps with the expression of music.”
Looking back at her work, she said she is most proud of the students she has taught. Some students with Island Strings have even returned to teach, while others have grown to be remarkable performers, such as Gloria Ferry-Brennan and Teo Benson, she said.
Good has worked to reconnect with many alumni this year. Many students work as musicians, but she’s happy to see others who have moved on to separate careers and still incorporate music in their lives.
“It’s amazing seeing all the places they go,” she said.
One former student she talked to works as an attorney, but occasionally plays violin on the street for extra cash.
“I love hearing stories like that,” she said.
The network has also been involved with the South Whidbey School District on many levels. Island Strings has worked with the former middle school and high school orchestras, which is one thing that makes the network distinct, Good said.
Good said she hopes the partnership grows to include more teachers and more opportunities with the school district in the future.