History

Heralded by musicians and educators throughout the world as one of the finest programs for the training of teachers and the development of young string students, The University of Texas String Project is sponsored by the University of Texas School of Music and the Junior League of Austin. The University of Texas String Project functions in partnership with the Austin community by supporting school orchestra programs and local private teachers. The program has received many national awards, including the First Education Institution Award for being the most significant program in strings among American Universities and Colleges.

It is believed that tens of thousands of people are playing stringed instruments today because of the far-reaching effects of The University of Texas String Project. Attracting students from almost every state and a number of foreign countries, the UT String Project has trained string teachers who have founded, developed, or expanded string programs in public schools, taught in universities, played in symphony orchestras, and developed successful private studios. Many of these leaders in the string world also began their study as children in the String Project.

The idea of the String Project came about in the years following World War II when an acute shortage of string players became apparent. There was a dearth of qualified string musicians to fill symphony positions, and few school children were being attracted to and trained in the art of string playing. In 1948 Dr. William E. Doty, founding Dean of the College of Fine Arts, listened to and supported Albert Gillis’ idea to develop an imaginative program for the training of string teachers. Together they founded the Junior String Project and Professor Gillis became the director, a position he held for the first 10 years. Eight years later, the program was renamed The University of Texas String Project.  Professor Phyllis Young joined the staff in its fifth year and began directing in 1958. She continued as director for the next 35 years.

Past directors in recent years have been Dr. Anne C. Witt, Fall 1993 through Spring 1995, followed by Susan Wallace, Fall 1995 though Spring 1997. Linda Jennings directed the program from the Fall of 1997 through the Fall of 1999. Christine Crookall directed the program from the Fall of 1999 to Fall 2001. Jessica Gilliam-Valls served as director from the Fall of 2001 to Fall of 2002. Dr. Laurie Scott, a String Project teacher from 1981-1987, serves as our current director, with Dana Wygmans as assistant director.

 

I have nothing but praise, glory, and thanks for those two years at UT , 1957-1959. It was so foundational, and though I did not ultimately pursue string playing later, because when we moved from Austin to Fordyce Arkansas in the summer of 1959, there was only a marching/concert band option in the 7-12 grade school of 450 students, that thereafter I was a baritone and tenor sax guy all the way through college (Tascos High School in Amarillo where I met Maggi Payne, then Austin College in Sherman, Texas, and finally the U.S. Coast Guard recruit band in Alameda, California in the summer of 1970, and in the end a singer in the Honolulu Symphony Chorus under Robert La Marchina and Donald Johanos and director of the Baha’I National Chorus in Hawaii as assistant to composer Russ Garcia).  Nevertheless, I always felt more at home musically than many of my later bandmates because of the really strong, inspiring foundation I received at UT.
I can still see, more than 60 years later, the face of the teacher of my individual violin sessions (he was patient but a little disappointed with my lack of progress – because, frankly, I did not practice with sufficient diligence to match his teaching efforts).  I can’t see the face of the theory teacher, but I remember feeling an exhilaration as the patterns emerged and I could grasp what was going structurally even if I had fat fingers on the violin keyboard (yes, I know the violin, the oboe, the bassoon, and the French horn have endless arguments about which of them is the hardest to learn to play well, but that is not excuse for lack of practice as a true culprit in my case)
All the best in your endeavors to enroll, inspire and guide our next generations of musicians, composers, and future appreciative audiences.  We need them.  Otherwise who will bring us live Motzart “Juipter” Bach Brandenbergs, Beethoven 9th, Handel’s Messiah, and all of the great compositions of the 20th and 21stcenturies.