The Garden City Telegram

A noteworthy cause

Rachael Gray/Telegram Priscilla Hallberg, right, instructor and executive director of The String Academy of the Plains, and her husband and fellow instructor Gordon, practice a violin piece Thursday afternoon in their home in Garden City.
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Learning music for any student at any age can be beneficial.

Especially in this day and age when the world is dangerous, complicated and confusing. Music can be a constant in a world of chaos.

That's the sentiment of Priscilla Hallberg, instructor and executive director of the The Strings Academy of the Plains.

Hallberg and her husband, Gordon, teach lessons to southwest Kansas students who range in age from 6 to 60.

They teach about 30 private lessons and have seven to 10 students in an after-school program.

In the future, the Hallbergs hope to grow the program to the point that they can put together a southwest Kansas orchestra.

"It used to be that each city in southwest Kansas had its own orchestra. That's gone by the wayside," Priscilla said.

She said that's due in part to placing an emphasis on marching band instruments in schools and having dual instructors in schools that don't specialize in string.

"What students learn in a private lesson is key. You can't get that at school," she said.

Some of the Hallbergs' students have gone on to win scholarships and study music in college. She hopes some of those students will come back to the area and assist in teaching.

Priscilla also hopes southwest Kansas will once again become a hotbed for string performers, both local and touring.

She said music, whether listening or playing, is an escape from the realities of the world.

"Learning music has multiple, multiple benefits. It's a discipline. You have to learn to count and keep the beat while controlling your body as the music speeds up and slows down. You have to develop your ear, your hand and eye coordination and your dexterity," she said.

When a person is playing music, the person's mind isn't on the worries of the day, it's on the instrument and the sheet of music, Hallberg said.

"And it's much better for you than video games. With music, you're in touch with yourself. There's an enjoyment of music. It makes you able to feel better. It's an outlet. You're at communion with yourself," she said.

Priscilla likened playing music to meditation or prayer.

"In this day and age, we live in a very scary and frightening world. Playing music brings up a sense of communication, cooperation and refinement. We're losing in society what makes us good. Music is good for the psyche," she said.

Priscilla referenced one of her favorite quotes by Leonard Bernstein: "This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before."

She also referenced a quote by Sir Thomas Beecham: "The function of music is to release us from the tyranny of conscious thought."

It's a much-needed medicine in today's world, she said.

In order to expose more people to different kinds of music, the Hallbergs are helping host area and national musicians when they make visits to Garden City. They're hoping to announce upcoming concerts soon.

In September, the Hallbergs along with musicians from Run Boy Run, a folk and blue grass band from Tucson, Ariz., will host a workshop during the Tumbleweed Festival.

"We'll do a full eight-hour workshop. We're going to be working on improvisation, music writing style, playing fiddle, singing and dealing with the business of having a band," Priscilla said.

Both Gordon and Priscilla hope to grow audiences in all different styles of music.

"The point is to develop an audience in string music, blue grass, fiddling, jazz, gypsy and any other kind of music that is played. Eventually, we want to have master classes with kids and adults, and get them together where they can play," Priscilla said.

Gordon said he would like to match students up playing together based on skill-level. He teaches a young group of string players called "The String Beans."

"We want to get everyone who plays well able to play together," he said.

"It doesn't matter what age you are, whether you go to public, private or are home-schooled," Priscilla said.

Priscilla, who has three degrees in violin performance. was the one who started Gordon, a trombone player, on string instruments. Music is a foundation of their life — both as individual and as a married couple.

Priscilla grew up in Boston and attended the University of Indiana, The Juilliard School of Music, Boston University and Rutgers University.

Her style is more classical and international, with an affection for jazz. Gordon enjoys fiddling.

"Whether what style you prefer, or what instrument you pick up, music can keep you busy for a lifetime," Priscilla said.

For more information on upcoming events or lessons, call the Hallbergs at 275-4379 or email