Kids get free violins and five years of classes in this KC program

Felecia Rogers realized how much music lessons cost when her son began learning cello.

“That’s an arm and a leg just for the instrument,” said Rogers, of Independence. “It was pretty expensive.”

So when she found out about a free violin program, she jumped at the chance for her younger child, Cheyenne.

Cheyenne was among the seven 4-year-olds who came for their first lesson — and a free violin — recently at Thomas Hart Benton Elementary in Independence. It’s the beginning of their five years of free music education in the String Sprouts program.

The program, founded in Omaha in 2013, brings music education to kids ages 3 to 8 in underserved areas. Funded through donations, String Sprouts expanded to the Kansas City area last year and is overseen here by Heartland Chamber Music. Last year, 56 students participated; this year the number has grown to 80, at five locations on both sides of the state line.

“We are targeting children at a very critical age in their development,” said Victoria Olson, executive director of Heartland Chamber Music. “Playing the violin or any string instrument is very hard work. There’s a lot of eye-hand coordination that goes into this. There’s lots of listening skills, building self esteem by showing weekly progress.”

This is the first year the program is being offered in Independence.

“We can’t believe it’s really a possibility for the kids to receive free violin lessons for five years and a free instrument, and as they grow, that instrument will grow with them,” said Leslie Hochsprung, principal of Thomas Hart Benton Elementary. “We are just very lucky to be a part of that.”

For more information see stringsproutskc.org.