Urban Strings Columbus Youth Orchestra is a Central Ohio-based community youth orchestra of serious, talented, young musicians from various public, private, charter, and suburban schools throughout the metropolitan Columbus area. Urban Strings Columbus performs a multicultural repertoire of great music ranging from classical, jazz, and gospel to R&B and movie themes. This wide-ranging repertoire not only engages the participants but also provides them with an opportunity to learn various types of music to which they might not otherwise be exposed. They also incorporate bodily movements to the music to create freedom of expression through African-American influenced music.
In 2007, Urban Strings Columbus was the brainchild of Catherine T. Willis, with the support of Friends of Art for Community Enrichment (FACE). FACE is a nonprofit organization that shares, through education and enrichment experiences, the art and culture of Africans and African-Americans. The membership and volunteers value the importance of teaching and sharing with our target audiences of youth and senior citizens.
In addition to classical training, Urban Strings Columbus strives to preserve and perform the music of African-American composers and arrangers. Much of the music Urban Strings Columbus performs is arranged by mentor David Robinson, a native of Detroit, Michigan. He was instrumental in supporting the establishment of the Urban Strings Columbus Youth Orchestra of Central Ohio. He is the director and conductor of the annual Urban Strings Columbus summer camp.
Mr. Robinson is the founder and director of the Still Waters Sinfo-Nia Youth Orchestra in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the fifth generation of professional musicians in his family. He started his musical career as a student at Morehouse College under the instruction of Dr. Ted McDaniel. He is now internationally acclaimed as a composer and arranger. The Ohio State University Marching Band is among the many college and high school bands that have performed his musical arrangements.
Stephen Spottswood, from Silver Springs, Maryland, is the current director of Urban Strings Columbus. He is a senior at Capital Conservatory of Music majoring in music education. Among his many talents, Mr. Spottswood transforms and infuses some traditional classical music with hip-hop arrangements. This gives the musicians of Urban Strings Columbus an opportunity to have a place and space to express themselves musically and creatively.
The Greater Columbus community has embraced Urban Strings Columbus. Rev. Wm. Wheatley and the congregation of Mt Vernon Ave. A.M.E. Church are the group’s major benefactors. They donate weekly rehearsal space for the youth orchestra as well as provide ongoing financial support.
Among the venues where Urban Strings Columbus has performed are Cardinal Health, The New James Cancer Hospital, Mees Hall at Capital University, Lincoln Theater, Ohio History Center, Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio State University Student Union, Jubilee Hall at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, Ohio State Supreme Court Black History Celebration, Tuskegee Airmen Celebration, Installation Ceremony of Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, Isabelle Ridgeway Nursing Home, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, Corban Commons senior housing, City of Columbus Black History Program, and the 2015 National Convention of the Northeasterners.
Urban Strings Columbus is composed of three components. The Urban Strings Quarter Notes learn about the basics of string playing. To audition, they must have at least six months of experience, whether that is in school, privately, or in another outside ensemble. In rehearsal they learn how to hold their instrument, classify the body parts of the stringed instrument, produce a sound, and identify elements of music using developmentally appropriate vocabulary.
The Urban Strings Half Notes are the intermediate group. They typically have had at least 1-½ years of experience playing their instrument. In rehearsal they read, write, and perform using eighth notes, quarter notes, half notes, and quarter rests. They start to develop sight-reading abilities at a beginning level. They also perform a varied repertoire of music representing diverse genres and cultures.
The Urban Strings is the premiere group. They are the most technically advanced of the three groups, with at least 2 or more years of lessons or performing on their instrument. These musicians must demonstrate technical accuracy, appropriate tone quality, articulation, intonation, and expression for the works being performed with good posture. In rehearsal they are introduced to improvisation where they compose simple rhythmic and melodic phrases.