For several years, Kent School students have had the opportunity to learn to play the violin. Each year, the third grade class learns to play "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" in a series of ten classes. For the last two years this has been under the instruction of violin teacher Caitlin Patton. Caitlin is also the Executive Director of the National Music Festival in Chestertown, which has recently been awarded grant funding to expand the Fiddlesticks! program to serve a wider age range and more students throughout Kent County.

Fiddlesticks! is a chance for Kent County children to learn to play a string instrument at no cost to their families. Lessons are free and instruments are provided. Group and private lessons take place at locations throughout Kent County. Any child in grades 3 — 8 who lives or attends school in Kent County is eligible to participate, including homeschooled children.

Four phases make up the Fiddlesticks! program:

  • In Phase 1, staff travel to schools and make presentations to introduce students to string instruments and the excitement of learning to play.
  • In Phase 2, students learn to play “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” on the violin in groups of up to eight students. The eight lessons in Phase 2 culminate in a performance of “Twinkle” for parents and friends.
  • The groups get smaller in Phase 3, as students who are committed to continuing their studies take lessons in groups of two to four. At this stage, students may switch to viola or cello if they choose, and the ten lessons will focus on learning one or more new songs and learning the basics of reading music.
  • The program culminates with Phase 4, in which students receive ten weeks of private lessons and participate in a string ensemble, directed by Philip Rosenberg. The ensemble will perform at the National Music Festival in June.

The Fiddlesticks! program is funded by grants from Family & Community Partnerships of the Eastern Shore, the Mid-Shore Community Foundation and United Way of Kent County, as well as private donations of funds, goods and services.