Beginner violinist and viola players sat in the first few rows of the Performing Arts Center with their instruments carefully laid across their laps until the temptation grew to be too much and errant fingers plucked at the strings.

After a kind shush from the stage by instructor Nancy Jephcote, the young children sat still once again and waited their turn to play at the All-Island Winter Strings concert on Thursday night. The concert opened with Scarborough Fair played by the advanced orchestra and closed with the traditional Twinkle Twinkle Litte Star finale where all members of the strings progam, from second to eighth grade, play together on stage.

Beginners displayed their knowledge of positions and exercises, while advanced players played full songs. — Mark Lovewell

Looking dapper in his pristine white shirt and black slacks, young Aiden Weiland joined the intermediate orchestra's rendition of Pepperoni Pizza Rock to improvise for a few seconds on the electric violin. Ms. Jephcote said this was the first time in a while that they had a student improvise during a song. Aiden was certainly up for the challenge.

“We have to find things that work for all levels,” said Mrs. Jephcote. And the concert did show off all levels of aptitude. Beginners displayed their knowledge of positions and exercises, while more advanced students showed their skills in full songs.

Joseph Serpa, an eighth grade cello player, sat with his back to the audience, not out of nervousness but because he was leading the other cello players. Mrs. Jephcote said Joseph has a knack for leadership and she will be sad to lose him to the high school next year.

“It’s not easy to get up and be the leader like that,” she said. “If everyone is following you it’s a big amplification of what you’re playing.”

Instructor Nancy Jephcote said the strings program exists because the community wants it. — Mark Lovewell

The elementary strings program includes students from second grade through eighth grade from all the Island schools. Second graders begin on violins or violas and can later move on to cellos and bass instructed by Mrs. Jephcote and Chelsea Pennebaker. Students attend lessons for free at their schools.

“It’s a program that only exists because the community wants it,” said Mrs. Jephcote.

Playing a string instrument is the ultimate test in delayed gratification, said Mrs. Jephcote. She said it takes seven years to know if pursuing the instrument is what you want. The concert gives beginners a chance to see what they will be able to do if they stick with it, she said.

“This is the first time they realize they’re going somewhere.”

More photos from the winter strings concert.