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One string at a time

South Routt teacher adds violin to music lessons

— Listening outside the door of Gerry Sutton’s classroom, it would be easy to think he was teaching an alphabet lesson inside.

“A…A…A…A,” Sutton’s voice rings out, speaking to more than 30 students who stayed after school Monday at South Routt Elementary School in Yampa. “B…B…B…B.”

The classroom is filled with kindergarteners and first-graders supports the alphabet theory, but Sutton is a music teacher, and the students, mostly 6 and 7 years old, are learning to play violins and cellos.



“You can pick your nose and pluck your E-string with the same finger,” Sutton tells the students with a laugh.

“Eeeeewwww!!!” they reply, before falling into giggles themselves.



Monday was the first official lesson for the students — and several adults — whom Sutton volunteered to teach the basics of the violin and cello. The lessons are free and will continue every Monday afternoon until the end of the school year.

The Flescher-Hinton Music Company of Denver provide students violin and cello rentals, which parent Deanna Simonsen said cost $25 a month.

“It’s such a great program for Mr. Sutton to offer,” Simonsen said. “I think he has done a really good job of introducing students to different instruments.”

Students at South Routt Elementary School have a music class every day. Sutton, in his second year at the school, also gives free drum and guitar lessons after school. Before the school day starts, his wife, Holli Hoskins, said, Sutton meets with an advanced drum club and the “Boomwhackers,” a rhythm group of students in kindergarten to sixth grade.

“He’s really committed to developing (children’s) minds through music,” said Hoskins, in her first year of teaching third grade at the school.

Sutton taught music at the middle school and high school in Steamboat Springs. Hoskins is a former teacher at Hayden Valley Elementary School.

Judging by the enthusiasm of his students, it appears Sutton has found a niche in South Routt.

“We’re not a heavy metal band — we can’t pluck these strings that hard,” he told the group of eager learners Monday, before demonstrating proper sitting posture and the correct way to hold the instruments.

Third-grader Utah Murray received special attention from Sutton throughout the lesson.

Utah’s upright cello was nearly as tall as he.

Sutton emphasized the intangibles of playing such deli–c–ate instruments to the class.

“Make sure you shout out the rests, because they’re every bit as important as the notes,'”Sutton said.


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