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Molly ShoreNicholas Vitagliano is eager to learn...

Molly Shore

Nicholas Vitagliano is eager to learn the violin, and hopes to

someday play Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind” -- a pop/rock radio staple

from the 1970s -- for his mother.


“I love the violin so much,” the Miller Elementary School

third-grader said. “My mom used to play the violin, and she wants me

to learn to play it.”

Nicholas is one of 10 students participating in Jacqueline


Dwight’s string instrument class, which meets Fridays after school in

the Miller auditorium. Eight children are learning to play violin,

and two the cello.

During their first meeting last month, the young musicians learned

how to hold their instruments and properly care for them. Dwight’s

goal during the eight-week course is to teach the children proper

playing habits.

“Learning a musical instrument is a challenge,” said Dwight, who


plays the cello. “It’s extremely difficult, and cannot be learned


Most of the students are renting their instruments through a

program funded by the Burbank Sunrise Kiwanis, which bought the

instruments. The Kiwanis helped start a similar program at Bret Harte

Elementary School.

“Research shows that children who learn a musical instrument do

much better in math and reading skills, as well as enjoyment of


music,” Kiwanis President Peter Culotta said. “We’re trying to fill a

gap left when the school district cut all music programs.”

Johnny Johnson, a past Kiwanis president, said five violins and

one cello were purchased by the organization, and money for two

additional violins was donated by his friends Dick Orkin and Julie


Once the string instrument program took hold at Bret Harte

Elementary, Kiwanis members sought to expand it to other schools.

Miller students eager to join the program had to participate in a

lottery for the instruments because only eight were available,

according to Christine Johnson, chairwoman of after-school enrichment

at Miller.

Third-grader Narbeh Sety said he was talked into taking violin

lessons by his sister, even though she doesn’t play the instrument.

“Taking lessons is fun for everyone in this class,” he said.