Members of the Mohawk Valley Strings during a recent practice session in Little Falls.

by Dave Warner

Laura Smith is on a mission to bring classical music and string performances back to Little Falls and the Mohawk Valley. She has formed the Mohawk Valley Strings School, which is dedicated to that mission.

Smith grew up surrounded by music, as everyone in her family was musically inclined. “We would play string quartets at Christmastime. I have pictures of my mom and I playing, and I’ve played all my life.”

Her degrees are all in music, but her passion for mountains explains her reason for moving to Little Falls, as she loves the Adirondacks as much as her music. “In a way, I had resigned myself to staying in Manhatten, but if I was going to stay there, I had to be able to get to the mountains,” said Smith.

“That was my reasoning for purchasing my property here, but then I started to love the community and I also started playing in Syracuse with the Symphoria, which was formally the Syracuse Symphony. It’s one of two successful cooperative orchestra’s in the country,” she stated.

Smith wanted to start teaching in Little Falls, but she felt that she couldn’t do that unless she was here consistently. “It’s one thing to give an adult coaching here or there, but with young children, you have to give them consistency.”

She achieved tenure with the Syracuse Symphoria, which gave her some stability and flexibility to think about making that move to Little Falls permanent.

“I started talking to Jane Malin at the Mohawk Valley Center for the Arts about brining a string school here and she and I were totally in sync with that idea. They’ve been very supportive so far as they’ve done some advertising in their brochure about the strings school,” said Smith.

Smith says that getting it going just starts with one person, and then word of mouth kind of takes over. “I think my first student saw the advertisement in the brochure, and that got everything started.”

Things now seem to be just falling into place for Smith as they are practicing and scheduling their first performances. “The idea is to eventually bring a full community orchestra to Little Falls. If we can have a string orchestra first, we can do all kinds of repertoire with that.”

Ideally, Smith says that a string orchestra should have at least twelve to fourteen participants. “You want to have at least three on the upper string parts,” she said.

They currently have eight individuals that are practicing and moving towards that goal. “We’re on our way,” stated Smith.

At least six of the first participants are from Little Falls, but Smith is setting up a fund to grow the participation of students. “The flyer that we’ll be handing out at our performances will invite people to donate to our fund. The arts center is going to manage the scholarship fund and they are also going to do the financial aid applications for people,” she said.

Smith is hoping that people in the valley will sponsor students so that they can take lessons, but some of the initial members of the group have already decided that they want to help. “How cool would that be that a student could perform with their sponsor?” she said.

She has already made her pitch to the local Rotary Club and hopes to get several of them in the area involved in sponsoring students. “I felt that the Rotary Clubs might be a way to help make connections,” with potential students.

You can hear them perform on December 20th at 7 pm at the Dolgeville Christian Fellowship on 3 Elm Street, or December 22nd at 4 pm at the Mohawk Valley Center for the Arts.

If you are interested in sponsoring a student in the community, please email, or contact the MVCA for information.