As an instrumental music teacher in the Antioch school district in the early 1980s Betty Lawrence saw a need for outside sources for teaching students string instruments. She understood that the short time students had in the schools to learn to play an instrument wasn't enough to build a lifelong love of playing string instruments.
While still teaching, in 1983, she decided to continue to foster the musical talents of her students in an afterschool program that would give students a chance to learn even more than the time allotted during the school hours. She later turned the program into a nonprofit organization called Strolling Strings.
"In a public school environment, students don't get enough practice in and often need outside tutoring to really learn a string instrument," Lawrence said. "We want them to have enough skills to enjoy playing their whole life."
Lawrence was set to retire from teaching and the nonprofit four years after beginning it, but after one of the school board members got wind of her plans and the district offered some financial support, she was convinced to keep Strolling Strings open.
Now 83, Lawrence is still running the Strolling Strings nonprofit organization, although she intends to pull back a little this year and let her daughter, Katy Lawrence-Burchett, take over the reins. The program runs concurrent with the school year and on Sept. 10 will hold auditions for the 2013-14 school year.
"Music students, from ages 6 to 18, if willing to practice and improve, can join this fun group of active musicians," she said.
Each student applies to be part of the Strolling Strings is required to belong to his school orchestra, if available, take private lessons and attend a weekly Strolling Strings rehearsal. The Strollers play a wide variety of instruments, including violin, viola, cello, bass, guitar, banjo, sometimes accompanied by the piano, and flute.
With a group like Strolling Strings, Lawrence said it takes a little more work than just learning the instrument, because players don't get to read sheet music as they perform.
"The idea is that they are constantly moving about," she said.
This year the group is also looking for accompanying performers from middle school age and up.
The Strolling Strings group performs at several outside venues throughout the year and also performs in out-of-state activities.
"It is really good for them to go to outside activities and see how other strolling performers work," Lawrence said.
Lawrence said she is really excited about this new year. "We have a great board and a lot of involved parents who are helping out," she said.
For more information see the group's website at www.strollingstrings.org or call Lawrence at 925-757-2682.
Meetings for potential members who are advanced string players are from 4 to 5 p.m. Sept. 10 and 17. Meetings for beginning and intermediate players are 4 to 5 p.m. Oct. 1 and 8. For more information, see the group's website at www.strollingstrings.org or call 925-757-2682.