LOCKPORT -- City third-graders have been given the chance to take instrumental music lessons this year, but there are strings attached.
Pupils have been offered the opportunity to take instructions in playing the violin, viola or cello.
Lessons started last week. About 143 pupils -- 36 percent of the district's 398 third-graders -- are registered.
It's the first time since the early 1970s that the Lockport City School District has provided a string instruction program, said Rosanna Sandell, the district's research and development director.
The program was reincarnated thanks to the Kenan Center, which obtained two $25,000 grants from the Grigg Lewis Foundation and the Thelma and Milfred Beck Bequest.
Kenan Center Executive Director Susan Przybyl said the two foundations have promised to fund the program for two more years based on the program's yearly success. She said the Kenan Center also is looking for other funding sources to supplement the cost of instrument rentals for pupils.
Sandell said the district is keeping rental cost nominal, $20 a year per pupil, and has reasonable expectations that the funding will come through to supplement the cost.
The program also offers a summer component, which will take place at the Kenan Center. In that program, elementary and middle school pupils can participate in string orchestra, band and chorus programs, Przybyl said.
She also said a technical theater program also will be offered for middle and high school students. It will teach stage management in a multitude of areas such as sound, lighting, construction techniques for scenery and many other aspects of stage production.
Paul Monaco, a string teacher in the Royalton-Hartland School District, has been hired by the Kenan Center to coordinate the winter string and summer programs.
He said he is still developing a program for next summer, which he envisions will last four weeks and involve a workshop atmosphere where musicians train together in "small groups and large ensemble."
"It's different from the winter [string instruction] program because the first is focused on the Lockport School District, while the summer program is open to pupils from . . . Medina to Clarence."
Meanwhile, the Kenan Center has hired Anneke Ieda, a string musician, to do the in-school winter instruction at the district's seven elementary schools.
Monaco said he expects that program to expand by one grade every year as this year's third-graders move up into a new grade.
The children seem excited.
"I wanted to learn the violin because I like the high notes it makes," said Francesca Pellicano, 8. "I'm looking forward to it because I've never had a chance to play an instrument before."
Hanna Mullen, 8, said she also signed up to take violin because "I like the sound of it and it seems like fun."
Ieda said she held assemblies at all seven elementary schools last month and demonstrated each instrument to get pupils interested. She said each student will get about two lessons a month, as well as some group instruction.