It is the Redding School of the Arts (RSA) winter concert and 50 children from the Strings Program are ready to perform. The students stand with bows at the ready, poised to begin playing the pieces of music they’ve been rehearsing. Their teacher Sheri Eby reflects: “My goal for children is to love music. We’re building tone and technique at every class – they love to play!”
With over 30 years of experience, Sheri is passionate about her profession, and has a special way of connecting with her students. “Sheri touches so many lives,” says Molly Mancasola, mother of three of Sheri’s former private lesson students. “She has an underlying belief that every child can be an artist.”
A year ago Sheri took over the strings “fiddling” program at RSA and transformed it into a classical strings program featuring violin, cello, viola and bass. Her classes also include fiddling, and lots of incentives that help children have fun while learning new pieces. Sheri also runs the
after-school program, the RSA String Orchestra for advanced students, and a beginning Suzuki class for Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
When Christine Kingsbury’s daughter Emily began the Strings Program in the fall of 2011, she had been taking private violin lessons since the age of 4 but had very little interest in her instrument. “The Strings Program has totally inspired her,” notes Christine. “We went from ‘please practice your violin’ to ‘please put your violin away’ at night when it was time to go to bed!”
In February, the RSA String Ensemble performed at the California Music Educators Association (CMEA) North State Solo and Ensemble Festival at California State University (CSU), Chico. The ensemble won the highest award at the festival, the Command Performance, and they are now eligible to participate in the CMEA State Festival at CSU, Sacramento in May.
Born and raised in Redding, Sheri’s life has been devoted to music since the 8th grade when she started learning the violin. She graduated from CSU, Chico with a degree in music, and then earned a teaching credential from Simpson University. Her background also includes training in the Suzuki Violin Method. She studied violin with David Mallory, William Barbini, Dennis Butterfield, and Dr. William Jacoby.
Before RSA, Sheri taught at the Turtle Bay School in Redding for eight years. Michele Krause, mother of two of Sheri’s former students, emphatically states, “Sheri made a huge difference in my children’s lives.” Michele recounts that when afterschool music program funding was being cut, Sheri would stay all afternoon beyond what was required. One of Michele’s sons went on to play violin for the Shasta College Youth Symphony. “Sheri knows how to inspire children. She’s able to give them something that makes them feel good about themselves,” Michele says.
Molly Mancasola recalls Sheri’s impact on her children: “Our family began to see Sheri as more than a music teacher. She became a mentor in each of our lives.” Molly’s daughters started lessons at ages 2 and 3, and later became state fiddle champions. Molly says that learning the violin helped develop her daughter Sydney’s vocal talent. Now age 24, Sydney studies opera on the East Coast, and just won a 2012 Metropolitan Opera National Council competition. Sheri’s influence on children also has extended to her own son, Michael Eby, who currently attends the Manhattan School of Music. “He started playing the violin at age 2,” says Sheri, “at 19 he is now a virtuoso.”
Sheri’s professional experience includes playing in the Redding Symphony, North State Symphony, Chico Symphony, Simpson Symphony, the Reno Philharmonic, and Harrah’s Show Orchestras. She also enjoys fiddling – jazz, Cajun, Celtic, folk and bluegrass – and is a two- time California State Fiddle Champion in the adult division.
For teachers, success is not defined by a high-paying salary or material acquisitions – it’s defined by watching their students demonstrate new skills and knowledge, and by the joy experienced when their students succeed. “Now that our children are adults, we credit Sheri as the force behind our family’s deep love for music,” states Molly. “She’s such a spark!” While Sheri expresses great pleasure in seeing her students learn and succeed, her students and their parents know they are fortunate to have this passionate and inspiring teacher in their lives.