Students create violins and art

A new JanTerm course this year, “The Art and Science of Violin Making,” centered on teaching students the process of making a violin along with allowing them to explore the science involved in music. At the end of the course, the students donated the violins they had made to a local string music program.

“Typically, my day [started] around 7:30 as I set up the activity for the first time block,” said physics teacher Doug Boomer. “It usually [took] some prep work on my part to have a lab set up and pieces prepared. During office hours there [were] usually a couple kids hanging out trying to practice a certain technique they [had] learned.”

Students learned how to make the different parts of a violin, such as the pegs, bridge, saddle, sound post, tailpiece, endpin, nut, and strings. They also learned about the sciences of vibration and sound by completing experiments with both the unfinished pieces and later, the complete violin.

“Usually during the day, somebody [got] a cool idea that wasn’t originally part of the plan,” said Boomer. “So I [spent] a couple hours at night throwing together a meaningful plan to cultivate their interest. It [was] tiring, but fun.”

The JanTerm class took a trip to Alfaro Violins, a local luthier’s, or violinmaker’s, studio and learned about the craft from a professional. The owner and luthier, Pablo Alfaro, taught the class about varnishing and finishing their own instruments. The class also visited a second studio, Young Kim Violin, in Duluth.

“This course has taught me so much about the violin that I can apply to my music on a daily basis,” said freshman and member of the Chamber Orchestra Mimi Konieczny. “It [was] an amazing experience that [showed] me so much about how music is really achieved.

One of 32 returning JanTerm courses, “Painting with a Purpose” allowed students to bring light to important issues through painting, although students were also encouraged to incorporate other mediums into their work. Students chose from any issue and created three projects based on their selected topic, which were then shown in an art show on Jan. 23.

“My favorite part about the ‘Painting with a Purpose’ JanTerm is that we got to work artistically on a cause of our choosing,” said sophomore Emily Henegar. “We got to visit the Goat Farm, which is this really interesting arts center based out of a renovated warehouse.”

Normally, students were given two to three hours a day to work on their projects, along with the opportunity to work during breaks or after school. This was ordinarily followed by a presentation by local artists or employees of local nonprofits. The class also visited artist’s studios, galleries, artistic non-profits and museums.

“Visiting the Souls Grown Deep Foundation was an incredible experience,” said visual arts department chair and teacher of the course Benjamin Steele. “It is the largest collection of southern self-taught art in the world and located right down the street from Westminster. Our students used this trip as inspiration for their own socially engaged art.”

Past projects by students have focused on social issues such as orphans, substance abuse, Alzheimer’s, drunk driving, police brutality, rising sea levels, child slavery, and food deserts in Atlanta.