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
“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
“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
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.