Steamboat nonprofit to teach children to play stringed instruments |

Steamboat nonprofit to teach children to play stringed instruments

Photo illustration
John F. Russell

How to help

Holly Fielding is building a website for the Winter Gardens Conservatory Scholarship Fund, but she needs some help. Anyone willing to lend website-building skills can call Fielding at 970-291-1028 or e-mail her at

She also is looking for stringed-instrument donations. Instruments can be dropped off at 1161 Soda Ridge Way.

Because Fielding still is awaiting her nonprofit status, monetary donations to support the program can be deposited into the Winter Gardens Conservatory Scholarship fund at Yampa Valley Bank. The checks will be imaged to provide tax-deductible receipts to donors.

Violinist Holly Fielding plays at Rex’s American Grill & Bar last week. Fielding is a violinist with Steamboat Springs Orchestra and has created Winter Gardens Conservatory Scholarship Fund to provide stringed instrument instruction to children.John F. Russell

— Holly Fielding wants every child in Steamboat to have the opportunity to learn how to play a stringed instrument.

Fielding, a violinist with the Steamboat Springs Orchestra, has created a nonprofit to do just that. She created the Winter Gardens Conservatory Scholarship Fund in February 2009 to provide stringed instrument instruction to children whose families might not be able to afford it.

“I just think it’s a really good way to teach the values of work and self-discipline, as well as being able to be expressive — artistically expressive,” Fielding said.

The nonprofit group will provide stringed-instrument instruction on a full or partial scholarship. And what Fielding would like to do is offer a free program in Steamboat Springs School District elementary schools to eventually create a free children’s orchestra.

Steamboat has a youth orchestra, but Fielding said it requires young musicians to play at a certain level.

“If they don’t have the money to pay for the instruction, they can’t join the youth orchestra,” she said. “In the meantime, I came upon this idea of a free children’s orchestra that wouldn’t turn away anyone. It’s for beginners, from the very beginning, the very start.”

After a recent meeting with Fielding, Steamboat Superintendent Shalee Cunningham said the district would offer the program in its schools next year.

“I think we all agree that music is a very important element of the school day for all students,” she said. “We already offer a wind program. To be able to offer strings, as well, would be a wonderful balance for the kids.”

Because the Winter Gardens Conservatory Scholarship Fund still is awaiting its nonprofit status, Fielding said it would operate under the umbrella of the district. She said the district wouldn’t pay her. Fielding plans to raise money for the program and find instruments through other means.

Cunningham said it hadn’t been determined whether the program would be offered during or after school. She said that would be decided after the teachers returned and could provide input.

Fielding, who began playing the violin when she was 3 years old and started teaching at 14, created a similar program in 2002 when she taught in the Wasatch County School District in Heber City, Utah. Before moving to Steamboat in 2006, Fielding ran the program, which she said became “pretty large,” for four years.

She said she hopes the same happens here. A number of stringed-instrument teachers in Steamboat have volunteered to teach scholarship students. Fielding has lined up four teachers for violin and viola, two to three to teach cello and one to teach bass.

Fielding said in addition to the in-school lessons, children who qualify could receive private stringed instrument instruction.

She said learning to play an instrument can help build self-esteem, could improve grades in school and could assist with critical thinking skills. Fielding wants children to have the opportunity to see for themselves.

“A lot of kids, especially in the low-income brackets, don’t know the opportunity is out there unless they learn about it in a school system,” she said. “So this opens their eyes to the possibility to handle a stringed instrument, try it and see if they like it.”

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