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Community Education: Tuning up

Andrea Booth's step-dad describes the 10-year-old as a natural performer. She's a kid who likes to stay indoors and practice. She's a kid who just likes to play her violin.

"I like everything about it," Booth said. "It's fun to play, it's easy to set up. And it sounds pretty cool."

So, once a week this summer, Booth spends half an hour with teacher Zachary Pelletier, who is teaching a new strings music program through Farmington Community Education. Booth is one of only a handful of kids participating in the new program -- or, you could look at her as one of the first to participate.

Pelletier started teaching a strings program locally in March. Community Ed youth and community service coordinator Marianne Feely said there are only three students currently enrolled in the new class, but she would like to see that program grow.

And Pelletier is ready to help with that project. He has spent 14 years as a public school orchestra teacher, and has worked with orchestras at Carleton College and with the Lake Superior Suzuki Talent Program in Duluth. Now, he is ready to share his skills with Farmington students.

"It's a different sound from band and choir. To have all three as an option for children is important," Pelletier said. "If we want kids to find their creative niche, we need to offer all three.

"Farmington has a very strong band and choral tradition. There's no reason there can't be a strong orchestra tradition, too. And this is a good place to start," he said.

Feely hopes having Community Education offer such courses will help parents and students become interested. Having the classes offered in the school buildings -- particularly where the students are already enrolled in after-school programs like Kid Connection and other enrichment classes -- is also convenient for parents.

But school-aged students are not the only ones Pelletier can teach. In fact, he is more than willing to reach out to all age groups. He teaches both beginning and advanced beginning courses, but can cater to all skill levels.

"I've taught everyone from 5 year olds to retired postal workers," he said.