Chillicothe Native Says Music Can Be Driver For Social Change | WGLT

Chillicothe Native Says Music Can Be Driver For Social Change

Dec 22, 2017

Emmy Holmes-Hicks caught the fiddle bug by age 4.

“An older cousin would visit from Thunder Bay, Ontario,” said Holmes-Hicks. “She played Canadian-style fiddle. There was something that just drew me to that music, so much I was just glued to her and I think my parents noticed that.”

It started with a box violin, as in a cracker-jack box wrapped in brown paper and a dowel sticking out for the neck during Suzuki group class.

“I learned how to hold the violin and how to take care of it,” said Holmes-Hicks. “I also learned how to stand with the violin.”

Today, the Chillicothe native keeps an eye on her own students when not performing herself. She stays busy as a faculty member at the University of Massachusetts, as well as Dartmouth and the Birch Creek Summer Performance Center.

She’s also director and violinist for the Newport String Project in Newport, Rhode Island. It’s a music performance and youth mentoring initiative intentionally “crossing boundaries of generation, heritage, and economic circumstance.” It’s based in a community center serving underprivileged families. Holmes-Hicks believes music can be a driver for social change, in that music gives a voice to someone who might not normally have that chance.

"We think it’s important for each of our students to feel proud of what they do and give them a chance to talk about their music and perform for the community,” said Holmes-Hicks. "A lot of families have never had an opportunity to take music classes that wouldn’t otherwise know that was a possibility.”

She thinks exposing music to kids at a young age is vitally important. She says it teaches them how to listen to other kids, and it forces them to focus. They also get to express themselves in a way they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

“We talk a lot about how they are feeling on a particular day, and how they can express that in their music,” said Holmes-Hicks. “This year we have small groups working together and instructed by one of us. We call them chamber music groups. At the heart of our organization is a string quartet in residence, where we all teach and perform together.”

So they work with their kids in these chamber groups to be able to listen, communicate and express themselves. She said she gets feedback from other teachers that discipline acquired during music lessons has a positive effect in the other after-school programs.

“They say the students are a lot calmer, happier and more focused. That’s really thrilling to hear,” said Holmes-Hicks.

When she appears with cellist David Sands on Dec. 28 at the Chillicothe Public Library, Holmes-Hicks said variety is the operative word when they choose a repertoire. The duo will perform classical pieces including Beethoven. They’ll also feature music from the early 1900s Czech composer Bohuslav Jan Martinů.

“He was actually born in a church tower where his father worked, and you can hear a lot of the Czech folk element in his music,” she said.

They’ll also feature a piece from the early 20th century Russian composer Reinhold Glière.

“This piece is in seven miniature movements,” said Holmes-Hicks. “I really like the piece because each little movement is its own little world and we get transported each time to something different each time we switch movements.”

Fiddle arranged tango’s and holiday tunes will also be on the program. The show begins at 6:30 p.m.

WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.