IRMO, SC- The sound of “Ode to Joy” is strummed in unison by a class of eager students.
“Wow, you guys are very good listeners for an early Monday morning,” Marina Alexandra says with a smile to a group of Irmo High students. The Ukrainian born, Columbia native professional guitarist is serving as an artist of residence this semester, teaching students how to play the classical guitar. She began playing guitar at the age of six and has established herself as a dynamic performer with a powerful stage presence. Alexandra performs regularly on stages throughout the southeast United States.
“It is such an honor to have Marina teach our class this semester,” said IHS Orchestra Director Colleen Marcou. “The kids get to see first-hand the dedication of someone who started playing at such a young age and the perseverance of sticking with something for this long. This is such a unique opportunity for the students and myself to see different viewpoints on the same technique.”
Alexandra has students run through notes, “What this does is teach you the independence of using your fingers,” she tells the class. “Muscle memory is key for playing any kind of instrument.”
“This is so nice to be able to learn from a professional like Mrs. Alexandra because you don’t get to experience something like it every day,” said ninth grader RJ McQueen. “I love playing music all the time. This opportunity will better my enhancement at guitar and I feel like learning classical music will challenge me. That is why I love music so much because there is always a challenge.”
This opportunity for students is just one example of the arts concepts that permeates through Irmo High School International School of the Arts. Students in the guitar class each have their own classical guitar to practice on thanks to a grant Irmo High was able to obtain. “I believe it is a great opportunity for our students to see professional musicians like Marina up close. I know that she will inspire our students to excel academically and in their musical pursuits,” said Irmo High School principal David Riegel. “I love that they have opportunities to explore different musical styles. It is exciting that they get to learn classical music because I’m sure most of them have never even seen a classical guitar before. To be exposed to someone of Marina’s stature, skill and talent is really neat for students here at Irmo High.”
During her first day of teaching, Alexandra was very impressed with how engaged the students were. “They were so well-behaved and very respectful. I think we are going to make a lot of progress here,” Alexandra said. “For any musician, to be able to give back is probably the most rewarding experience you can have. My goal is that I hope the students will understand the importance of practice and establishing a foundation of working at their craft. I want them each to feel inspired and let them know that they can go as far as they want to.”