Strings in the Park

River City String Club, which practices in McKinley Park, is part of the Sacramento Institute for Music & the Arts.
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river city strings club

Fourth-grader Sloane Buckley-Unger has been playing violin for only two years, but she has progressed enough that she felt confident to stand and start the countdown to S. Suzuki’s “Allegro” and play as if she was the first chair. “It was really fun because I got to kind of be the boss, and it felt like it mattered,” says Buckley-Unger, 9, about her time in the spotlight. Buckley-Unger is part of River City String Club, which meets every first and third Thursday at Clunie Clubhouse in McKinley Park. Ingrid Tracy Peters, founder of Sacramento Institute for Music & the Arts and a longtime violinist with the Sacramento Philharmonic, runs the club.

Tracy Peters is trying to get the institute’s youth music program back to pre-COVID levels. (The pandemic quashed in-person lessons and ended the institute’s revolving tour of downtown and midtown elementary schools.) It has proven to be daunting due to funding crunches and the need to reconnect with students after two years.

Twinkle and Star classes are for kids ages 3 to 5, and students learn proper form on homemade practice violins and bows. They progress to the Mozart and Vivaldi classes—for grades 3 to 5—and start playing real violins. From the beginning, they read music using the Suzuki Method, Tracy Peters says. Those classes are starting back up this month.

students part of the strings club

River City String Club is for more advanced students. String Club members get to practice and perform in McKinley Park, Tracy Peters says, which always draws a crowd.

“Before COVID, we were on the right track,” she says of the institute’s menu of classes. “But I like this better, being at the Clunie Center. It’s a more sustainable plan. We did have issues with maintaining the program at the elementary schools because it was hard to get a room sometimes. The schools have their own things going on. But we’re on the right track now, and if I can get this Twinkle and Stars class started (in April), and get a great group of kindergartners, then we’ll be on our way again.”