Supporting and funding music education for the region’s youth has been a part of the RCA mission from its inception. Dating from 1983, RCA has hired performers who are dedicated to educating students, and student outreach programs have been made available in area schools. With the introduction of the Donor of Note giving program, additional gifts have made it possible to expand the RCA Student Outreach program.
Budgets for arts in public schools are shrinking everywhere. In March each year, RCA accepts applications from Northern Neck music teachers who need supplies, instruments and teaching materials for their classrooms. Please print out our application and complete it as directed.
Click here to read how teachers have used their grants.
On November 5, the Rainier Trio performed for the Northumberland Middle School students. This performance was supported by the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.
In February 2020, elementary students from Northumberland, Westmoreland and Lancaster Counties and students from Chesapeake Academy experienced Gilbert and Sullivan’s lively “The Pirates of Penzance,” performed by Virginia Opera.
In October 2017, RCA held a focus group for Northern Neck music teachers, who asked us to find a harpist for elementary students in Northumberland and Richmond counties. Ms. Thorburn presented playful and age-appropriate music at her outreach performances. She returned to the Northern Neck in October 2018 to visit elementary schools in Lancaster and Northumberland Counties.
The Washington Saxophone Quartet, the most widely heard saxophone quartet in the United States, performed in Heathsville for middle and high school students.
Ms. Nakasian, a UVA and William & Mary jazz vocal professor, gave a workshop to Northern Neck choral students on powerful but safe singing. “Don't smoke, Don't use drugs. Don't scream, learn to use the mic.” They were enthralled by her ability to sound like a trombone with a mute, or a trumpet, or a clarinet. Best of all, she proved that improvisation is a learned skill!
Middle and High School students loved them! Even the principals asked to have them back. The US Navy Community Outreach Program sponsors free concerts and workshops to the public. These professionals answered endless questions about the importance of practice, discipline and the Navy’s boot camp program at the Great Lakes.
In 2017, RCA received a $13,700 bequest from former board member Carolyn Crewe Gray. The leadership voted to spend it all on its mission to support music education for the region’s youth. RCA organized focus groups to identify the best use of the new funds. Participants included retired musicians, music teachers, executives from the YMCA and local school boards, and other community leaders who serve our children. They found that no strings instruction took place in the public schools, and recommended the Suzuki method, a natural learning process, for elementary-aged children, with the goal to initiate a youth string orchestra in the future. These youngsters are named “The Strings Crewe” after their benefactor. Instruments and private lessons are free. Parents must attend each lesson and supervise practice during the week and also provide listening time assigned by the instructors.
In Memoriam, Carolyn Crewe Gray
Music Director Christina Totton presents SONNY students in their first concert, with four violins, two violas and four cellos. Here they play “Dies Irae: Fantasia,” by Deborah Baker Monday. “Dies Irae” is a hymn from the 13th century based on a poem describing the Day of Judgment. The tune is easily recognized and has been used by composers from Joseph Haydn (Symphony #103) to Stephen Sondheim (“Sweeney Todd”). YouTube Video
After this recital, ten Strings Crewe students (picture above) began studying junior string repertoire to form the String Orchestra for Northern Neck Youth (SONNY). They had completed elementary lessons with the Strings Crewe, a program to teach violin, viola and cello. At right is Music Director, Christina Totten.
Recitals are actually performance classes, and the audience is the teacher. Here’s a video of Strings Crewe violins playing “Twinkle” variations in a ‘follow the leader’ exercise. Five students are the leaders. Each leader stands in front of the others and plays the first measure of his/her chosen variation: the melody is the same, just the rhythms are different. This is harder than it seems, because as the last measure of one variation is being played, the leader next in line continues playing while he/she steps forward to the leader’s spot, then must immediately launch into the chosen variation. YouTube Video
Beginners and 3rd- year students play together: Violins, violas and cellos playing Handel’s “Chorus from Judas Maccabaeus” in three lines: YouTube Video
A heartwarming recital by our 18 violin, viola and cello musicians, aged 7-12, was held in this 1737 restoration with beautiful acoustics.
The Strings Crewe hosted the famous USAF Strolling Strings at its August 2019 recital at Campbell Memorial Presbyterian Church in Weems. Twenty uniformed musicians filled the sanctuary with uplifting selections, and provided the audience with stereophonic music while strolling around the pews. A unique and uplifting experience!
Rebecca Young teaches cello. She graduated from Westminster College in New Wilmington, PA, where she studied cello and graduated with a degree in Music Education. She taught public school music in Ohio and New Jersey for over 32 years.
Christina Totton teaches violin and viola. She graduated from Boise State University with emphasis on viola and opera. As a member of the US Air Force, she founded a junior string orchestra on the island of Okinawa. She also operates a studio in Gloucester called the “String Bean.”
Instruments are sized to fit the child and provided free! The William Mason II Violin Shop in Fredericksburg gave 48 instruments in all sizes to the Strings Crewe. We thank Campbell Memorial Presbyterian Church for storing our inventory.
RCA is grateful for after-school space for lessons are at the Northumberland County Public Library in Heathsville, Campbell Presbyterian Church in Weems, the Boys and Girls Club in Kilmarnock, and St. John’s Episcopal Church in Warsaw.
To enroll your child in the Strings Crewe, CLICK HERE to download our registration form. Contact Sue Nunn by email or by mobile phone (703) 577-3553.Students may choose violin, viola or cello. Instruments are sized to fit.
In October 2019, the Advisory Board developed a long-range plan toward launching youth orchestras on the Northern Neck.
July 2021: After three years in Crewe, students ‘age out’, but ‘age in’ immediately to the String Orchestra for Northern Neck Youth (SONNY). This is a program for all students capable of playing junior string repertoire. No auditions required. Affordable tuition to be determined.
September 2024: Launch the Northern Neck Youth Orchestra (NNYO), enrolling wind, brass and timpani musicians from area high school bands.
For more information about the Strings Crewe or SONNY, contact Sue Nunn, Director Crewe Programs, at (703) 577-3553 or email. To donate specifically to RCA’s music education mission, CLICK HERE, or make your check payable to “RCA,” write “Music Education” in the memo line and mail to P.O. Box 342, Heathsville, VA 22473.
In addition to generous individual donors, funding support for the Strings Crewe and SONNY was granted by the Gloucester Community Foundation, River Counties Community Foundation, UUFR Servetus Endowment Fund, Virginia Commission for the Arts/National Endowment for the Arts, the Cole Trust, Wiley Foundation, Northern Neck Orchestra, and the Rappahannock Music Study Club.