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Ridgeview Student Awarded Brand-New Violin

Iris McConnell

December 13, 2022 -- Today is National Violin Day! And one Columbus City Schools student, in particular, has a special reason to celebrate this year.

Iris McConnell is an eighth-grade student at Ridgeview Middle School. Earlier this year, she received a letter informing her that she was a winner of the 2022 Dreamer Instrument Access Program. Along with the honor came the ultimate prize: a brand-new violin!

"I really like orchestra. Every new piece is my favorite, and I can't wait to play them all on my new violin!" McConnell said.

The Dreamer Instrument Access Program was developed in partnership with the Black Violin Foundation and the Baroque Violin Shop. The organizations worked collaboratively to give string instruments to young musicians identifying as Black, Indigenous, and Persons of Color.

“The objective of this program is to provide access to quality instruments for existing musicians of color, and to take away the cost burden of purchasing an instrument to prospective students who wish to begin their journey as classical musicians,” according to the Black Violin Foundation’s website.

Allison Wodkowski is a Strings Specialist at Ridgeview and Dominion Middle Schools. She has been McConnell’s orchestra teacher for three years, and she was the one who came across this opportunity and encouraged McConnell to apply.

“Iris is a really ambitious student and has done a lot to find herself in the way of opportunities. All I really have to do as her teacher is just open those doors, and she is ready to absolutely walk through them on her own. Part of my job is to put my students in the way of opportunity so that they can go on and be successful,” Wodkowski said.

McConnell thanked her teacher for years of support and encouragement.

“She’s amazing. She has pushed me to be the best I can be and to do the best that I can do,” McConnell.

Both recognized McConnell’s mother, Norma Santiago, as a force behind her daughter’s success.

“Iris’s mother has been such a great partner. That’s always what you want when you’re working with parents, especially in my position working with parents over multiple years,” Wodkowski said.

“She’s always there for me, and just like Ms. Wodkowski, she always helps me be the best I can be,” McConnell said.

The Baroque Violin Shop CEO Stephen Heck congratulated the recipients, offered advice, and shared encouragement in letters sent to the instrument recipients.

“Playing a stringed instrument takes extraordinary patience, diligence, and hard work. You would not be where you are today if you didn’t possess those qualities. So even though we’ve never met in person, I’m incredibly proud of each of you,” Heck wrote.

The work of a successful school orchestra goes beyond simply hitting the right notes.

“We are a team, and we’re a team like any other. We have to trust each other, we have to rely on each other, and we have to know each other well. Experiencing all that through music and having everybody on the same path is very important,” Wodkowski said.

McConnell said she plans to continue playing and see where it takes her.

“I have no doubt that Iris is going to be successful in lots of different ways throughout her life, and I think music will always be a part of that,” Wodkowski said.

And to those who awarded her the violin, McConnell would like to say, “THANK YOU SO MUCH!”

To any students looking to get involved in orchestra, Columbus City Schools provides opportunities and avenues for students to learn and participate in the arts. Contact your school’s music teacher to learn more.

Power of One

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