Cumberland school makes arts education a priority

Posted February 25, 2010

— Arts education is a priority at Eastover-Central Elementary School of the Arts in Cumberland County. Students as young as pre-kindergartners learn to play the violin.

Once-a-week violin class is mandatory from kindergarten through second grade. Cumberland County schools provide the instruments.

Violins fly at Cumberland elementary school Violins fly at Cumberland elementary school

Teachers said learning how to play a musical instrument teaches students mental and physical skills at a crucial development phase.

"It improves their creativity, their higher thinking skills," violin teacher Kelly Illescas said. "They develop amazing fine motor skills."

Once children enter third grade, they can chose whether to take violin classes twice a week. About a third chose to do so, and many were enthusiastic about their lessons.

"Every Tuesday and Thursday, I'm like, 'Mom, go get my violin, because I got to go to violin class,'" fifth-grader Joseph Autry said.

Students also learn about music theory, history and appreciation.

Children can start learning to play the violin as early as pre-kindergarten. They don't get a real violin, though. Instead, they use fake box violins for the first two months. Then they move onto baby violins.

"They will occasionally drop them, and I have had them break," Illescas said.

At the end of the school year, all the violin students play in a recital for their families and peers.

Illescas said that although most students won't become great musicians, the early training enhances their education.

"They really do love it overall," she said.


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  • simracer68 Feb 25, 2010

    Yeah, it's a shame that their test scores aren't any better:

    I grew up in Eastover and can say that music/arts are an important part of the culture around there. Cape Fear HS and Mac Williams MS bands and choruses are usually among the region's best - and were good even back when Cape Fear had 2 "junior highs" feeding into it (Stedman JH and Armstrong JH)...back in my day. From what I gather from friends that still live around there (and 1 that has children at E-O), the kids at Eastover-Central are well grounded in the 3 Rs and are simply taking on more than the basic elementary school student by adding a performance arts curriculum to the mix. I wish they'd had a deal like that when I came through that system. We were lucky to get to play recorders in elementary school. As it was, I couldn't start band until the 7th grade @ Armstrong.

  • lroyal10900 Feb 25, 2010

    "Arts Education" usually covers such as music, art, and drama.

  • affirmativediversity Feb 25, 2010

    I think the headline for this story is misleading. Most people when they think of "ARTS" Education think of painting, sculpting etc.
    I personally, based on the headline, assumed this story was probably about a bunch of subjective, feel good tripe...or another waste of money
    BUT music is in a different category.
    I completely disagree with CalvinCat, obviously you have never taken a true music class with includes learning scales, notes, timing etc. Some of the most complex math is in music. In order to play the most basic tune a student must work hard on their reading and comprehension skills, and memory.

    I'd rather see this kind of lesson learned than PC censored civics class!

  • housemanagercary Feb 25, 2010

    Janeybelle and Butterpie you are both right

  • butterpie Feb 25, 2010

    We should watch these students. Scores have shown that students that are taught fine arts tend to excel in math and science. Studying the arts evidently develops a part of the brain that helps with other subjects.

  • janeybelle Feb 25, 2010

    Eastover Central is a wonderful school. They have some of the highest test scores in NC consistently.

  • CalvinCat Feb 25, 2010

    Arts are fine as far as it goes - but wonder if the schools would better serve the students by teaching reading, writing, science, geography, history, etc etc etc...

  • housemanagercary Feb 25, 2010

    Nice to see something positive