On-Campus Musicians Revive String Orchestra

After the program was cut more than 40 years ago, the Florida A&M Department of Music has revamped its string orchestra ensemble.

Since the late 1960s, there has been no string orchestra ensemble housed on campus. Although the music department offers string technique courses, it hasn’t had an ensemble that accompanies the string music concentration.

There are a number of instrumental and vocal ensembles in the department. Three years ago, however, Shelby Chipman, conductor of the string orchestra, decided to bring the program back.

“The string ensemble is a performing organization. We have brass ensemble, wind ensemble, marching band ensemble…depending on what a student’s major is, that student would participate in a specific ensemble,” said Chipman.

Music students are urged to participate in these ensembles to perfect their crafts and strengthen musical range and ability.

Brian Hall, adviser and assistant professor for the strings program, said bringing the program back was an excellent idea.

“The string ensemble is going to expand the depths of musicianship that we already have in the music department,” said Hall.

“I feel strings are extremely important to the history of western music. The string instruments were the earliest instruments in the modern orchestra starting in the 1600s up until present day.”

Skylar Lewis, a senior business student and member the string orchestra ensemble said the program has challenged her skills and work ethic.

“Ever since I joined, its forced me to really practice more than I ever have before because it’s a higher level of playing. We travel and do a lot of different things,” said Lewis.

The ensembles are not only for students pursuing music degrees.

Chipman encourages any beginner, intermediate and expert level string musician to join the classes.

Although interested students must get Chipman’s approval before becoming a member, he said it is only so he can be aware of the performance levels of prospective students.

Nonetheless, Chipman said he is urging all interested students to come out and see what the program has to offer.

First-year business administration student Cora Grant said her impression of the music department is changing.

“The strings bring more diversity to the music department,” said Grant.

“I feel like before the department was known for its heavy bass, and now there is a classical element and more peacefulness.”

The department is expecting high volumes of interested students to join the program because of their Facebook networking efforts and relations with campus media.

The string ensemble meets every Monday in the band room in the Foster-Tanner Fine Arts Complex from 5:30 -8 p.m.

Chipman conducts the ensemble that includes violinists, violists and cellists from students.

For more information about the string orchestra ensemble or FAMU’s Music Department, contact Shelby Chipman at 850-599–8165.