As bows screeched out their first notes, a group of young students in kindergarten through second grade tried to find their placements on the fingerboard of a violin Monday afternoon.
The seven students are taking beginner violin lessons at the Lenoir City Arts Center.
"Remember: Your nose is going to point down the fingerboard," instructor Mary Ann Fennell said as she taught the students how to properly hold a violin in playing position. "Hold it with one hand," she said.
A row of youngsters perched the foreign object against their body as they looked to Fennell for more instruction. "Now just turn your chin," she said. "That's one of the things we're going to have to learn is to put this violin on our shoulder."
First Baptist Church of Lenoir City is branching its services beyond worship. New this fall, the church is offering music lessons in string, brass, woodwind and percussion instruments, along with guitar, voice and piano. Worship pastor and program director Scott Williams said he hopes the Lenoir City Arts Center will eventually grow to include all art disciplines, such as drama, acting and visual arts.
"We want to provide more than just music instruction. I would love to be able to offer visual arts and dramatic arts and just to have an opportunity for more folks in Lenoir City and Loudon County to have quality instruction and a Christian environment in the arts," Williams said. "I just haven't see than in our area."
"We have several talented folks here at the church and in Lenoir City," he said. "We just gathered folks together that were instructors and so that they can teach in a central location. It's just to have a place of quality instruction that is in Lenoir City."
Fennell, who has been teaching violin lessons for 30 years, also plays the violin with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and at the church.
"I think it teaches discipline, concentration, how to work in a group," Fennell said of offering music lessons to youngsters. "There are so many things. I think it's important too because if they go on with it it gives them a group to belong to, which I think is really important now."
The center offers individual and classroom instruction during a 12-week semester in the spring and fall.
"We regularly here at church and the worship ministry office get phone calls from people looking for either recommendations to go and take lessons or wondering if we have someone at church who gives lessons, so we decided that maybe we can set up a system and organize it to actually do that," Williams said.
The arts center has gotten off to a good start, he said.
"We are just figuring out how to make it work right now," Williams said.
There are about 30 students enrolled. The young group of violinists is the only class currently offered at the center. Williams said all other instruction is through private lessons, which are $300 for a semester.
"We have adults taking," Williams said. "We have children taking. ... We will take anyone. If you are wanting to begin, we have some beginning violin players who are adults, actually. On the website people can look there, and it tells more about suggested ages to begin instruments."
Fennell said so far the group of young violinists have learned how to take care of their instrument, how to hold their instrument, how to pluck a violin string and nomenclature of the instrument.
"We are very, very beginning," Williams said with a laugh. It was the second class in which students had instruments.
Student Cora Butler deemed the scroll, or the top piece of the violin, as a "swirly head."
"I love playing violin. My baby sister has been screaming, 'It's loud!'" Butler said, adding that she has been faithful to practice.
Six-year-old Lilyana Helton said she has been looking forward to picking up the violin for a couple years. She said she has also been playing the piano for five years.
The students later plucked their E string during a rhythm exercise at Monday's lesson.
"We are going to start out by playing the twinkle variations," Fennell said. At the end of the semester, the group will have a concert.
Most lessons began in the middle of August. Even though lessons have started, Williams said Lenoir City Arts Center is still taking new students. The cost will be prorated for those joining later in the semester.