Arts and Entertainment

Strings attached

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Nearly two months in and the classics are being finely tuned for youthful ears in Carlsborg.


Under the guidance of experienced strings teacher Phil Morgan-Ellis, the Sequim Community Orchestra director, 22 Sequim students are striking the right chord for the future of violins and cellos on the peninsula. The Beginner’s Strings Class, sponsored by the orchestra, started on Oct. 1 and continues to play each Tuesday and Thursday after school in the Greywolf Elementary School music room.


“They’re doing great and have come such a long way,” said Morgan-Ellis.


Going from scales to “Mary Had a Little Lamb” to learning new notes, much of the classroom is filled with aspiring fourth-grade musicians and a few younger and older students.


Morgan-Ellis said nationwide string students customarily begin group lessons in fourth grade but some start as early as age 3 in private settings.


Sequim students say they’ve always had a love for stringed instruments and are happy to have the opportunity to play locally.


Helen Haller student Zoe Moore said she always wanted to learn to play and follow in her aunt’s footsteps, who also is a violinist.


Greywolf violinist Layla Gibson feels the same way.


“I’ve always liked the music of the violin, so I thought I should learn it,” she said.  


Firm foundation

With help from grants and donations, particularly a $3,000 grant from the Floyd and Delores Jones Foundation in Seattle, the class is offered for free to students but they must provide their own instruments and music books.


The Sequim School District provides the space and busing for students from Helen Haller Elementary to Greywolf with parents picking them up afterward.


Lili Green, president of the orchestra, said they’ve had enthusiastic support from the school district, school principals, staff and teachers and Greywolf music teacher Stephanie Clark.


“If we can find a venue and funding, and enough are interested, we may start a second beginners’ class in January,” she said.


Before the class started, more than 30 students showed an interest in the class.


By the end of the school year, Morgan-Ellis said students will be proficient music readers and tentatively in three years he hopes to form a young musician’s orchestra.


In sixth grade, some students will be given the opportunity to move up to the larger viola or bass.

Morgan-Ellis said they wait to move students to these larger instruments so they can grow into them and be able to hold them without struggling.  


Dee Dee Dorrell, one of three cello players, said she purposefully signed up for the cello because she liked how big it was and it seemed fun.


“My grandma and I like the cello,” she said. “We ordered it and it took about a month to get here but it’s been fun.”


Green said a few instruments have been donated and the orchestra is seeking donations to support those in need of an instrument rental or purchase.


To assist in classes, several orchestra volunteers assist the children with recognizing notes and finger placement. In the future, volunteers plan to set up a mentoring program to help a child with home practice, too.


To help, community members can donate instruments and/or money for the orchestra’s Sponsor a Child program. The orchestra is in process of becoming a 501(c)3 but tax deductible donations temporarily fall under the fiscal sponsorship of the Olympic View Community Foundation.


For more information on the strings class and the Sequim Community Orchestra, visit or contact Lili Green at or 681-5469.


Reach Matthew Nash at
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