Phillips discusses new strings studio at Rotary

Starkville music teacher and violinist Shandy Phillips discusses her new teaching studio the Starkville Strings School at the Starkville Rotary Club meeting Monday. Phillips recently moved her teaching from her own home into a rental space on North Jackson Street. (Photo by Charlie Benton, SDN)

Staff Writer

Shandy Phillips spoke at the Starkville Rotary Club’s meeting Monday to discuss her means of bringing more music to Starkville.

Phillips, a violinist, teacher and alumna of the Juilliard School has opened the Starkville Strings School, offering music lessons modeled after conservatory pre-college curriculum to the community. Philips has been teaching private lessons and ensembles in the area for several years, and recently opened a studio in a rental space located at 1004 N. Jackson St. in Starkville. The studio is almost to maximum capacity, and currently includes 21 violinists and three cellists.

“I’m almost at my limit in the amount of students I am able to take currently,” Phillips said. “I have two half-hour slots remaining, so I have to find new teachers pretty soon.”

She said for the first time, she had no viola students.

“They go for violin, or they go for cello, and that’s kind of they way that is,” Phillips said. “Very few are just violists from the beginning. They’re very special, unique.”

Phillips gave examples of many of her students’ accolades, including Abigail Musser who competed in the national Distinguished Young Woman Competition. Musser used her violin playing for the talent portion of the competition. Several other students of Phillips have received similar honors, both musical and otherwise.

“Our school location recently changed from my living room to a rental space, which is wonderful on a lot of levels,” Phillips said. “For one thing, being able to have more than one teacher is a great thing for our school. You can’t have more than one teacher in your living room teaching at the same time as you.”

She said with the new facility, Backstage Music had donated some new music stands and Lowe’s had donated chairs for the recital room. She also purchased a Steinway piano for the school. The building houses five studios total.

Curriculum at the school includes weekly private lessons, group lessons and ensemble playing.

“We’ve had the very good fortune of acquiring grant funding from both outside and inside of the community, which wants children to be able to pursue their instruments and interests in educating themselves and to have options any child would have in a larger community in the state,” Phillips said.

She said many people from the area had donated to her studio scholarship fund. At a national level, Turkish-American philanthropist and Chobani Yogurt founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya has also supported the studio.What’s more, The Gildea Foundation from Columbus gave the studio $10,000 to help with utilities and rent.

“We are a nonprofit, and we don’t produce products,” Phillips said. “We produce students, and those are people who are learning, and not things, so we don’t have a thing to sell to provide us with an income to pay our rent.”

She emphasized the importance of the community’s support to allow access to lessons for as many as possible.

“We are the community too,” Phillips said. “We are not the Phillips School of Music on purpose. Learning violin is not about me. There are thousands of violin teachers. It’s about our community and our town.”

More information can be found on the school’s website. The school can be reached at 662-323-6005.