The Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music has been providing meaningful music experiences for children in the Austin community and beyond for well over half a century. In diverse instrumental and vocal music programs that involve children from birth to 18 years of age, faculty and students in the Butler School continue to lead in the development of effective approaches that foster children’s successful music making.
Perhaps most notable among the School’s educational programs is the University of Texas String Project. Founded in 1948, the Project has become a national model for both string education and string teacher education. Each year the program engages 300 children and their families in high quality learning experiences that include individual and group instruction, ensembles, and academic classes designed to develop children’s musical understanding and skills, contributing to their intellectual development and personal growth. The Project is also a teacher education incubator, a living laboratory in which undergraduate and graduate students in the Butler School refine their pedagogical skills as they learn how rewarding it can be to help young children achieve meaningful goals.
In 2011, the String Project initiated a new outreach program for children from underserved populations at UT Elementary School, a charter school in East Austin. The program has expanded since its inception, but is as yet unable to reach the many children who desire and would benefit from music instruction.
In January 2014, Robert Smith, Chairman of Vista Equity Partners, expressed a vision for providing the children of Austin access to instrumental music experiences. With an initial grant provided by proceeds from an Austin performance by the Cleveland Orchestra at the Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition, Mr. Smith made possible the creation of Musical Lives—a collaboration with the Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music and UT Elementary School that provides music instruments and high quality music instruction to children in areas of the community where access to music instruments and individual instruction is limited by economic constraints.
Musical Lives expands the well-established effectiveness of the String Project’s teacher development program, thereby provided high quality experiences for the children of Austin while developing among the undergraduate and graduate students in the Butler School an understanding of and a commitment to working in underserved communities.
The program’s inaugural session began in the fall of 2014, with the aspiration that it will expand to include children from a wide range of neighborhoods in Austin and the surrounding communities. Musical Lives provides instruments and instruction for all of the UT Elementary children in Grades 2-5. The children are taught by teachers who are trained in the UT String Project and are pursuing (or have) a teaching credential. Teachers are supervised by String Project Director, Professor Laurie Scott. Courtney Castaneda (M.Mus and K-12 teaching credential) is starting her third year at UT Elementary. Previous co-teachers include Aurora Adamson and Devan Bell.