Musical trio offers Portland children subsidized lessons

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PORTLAND — The words “subsidized” and “classical music” don’t necessarily seem like a natural fit.

But a recently formed nonprofit seeks to pair those words by providing subsidized lessons to city children.

The organization, 240 Strings, formed by three professional classical musicians, will begin providing at least three students with free music lessons and chamber music coaching in the fall.

Pianist Anastasia Antonacos, cellist Ben Noyes and violinist Tracey Jasas-Hardel of the Portland Piano Trio co-founded 240 Strings, which is named for the total number of strings in a piano, violin and cello.

 Antonacos said they had been talking about setting up the nonprofit for several years, and began working on it close to a year ago. She said they got the idea nearly a decade ago from a similar program created by a Providence, Rhode Island-based group.

Antonacos said while the group is in the process of applying for grants, it has so far been relying on private donations. A fundraising concert is being held July 7 at 7 p.m. The concert venue will hold 50 people; tickets are $80, available at 240strings.org. The hour-long concert will feature works by Amy Beach, Franz Joseph Hadyn and Dmitri Shostakovich, and will be followed by wine and dessert. So far, Antonacos said enough has been raised for three students to begin lessons this fall.

The trio will also be playing in concert July 6 on Peaks Island, though that is not a fundraising event for 240 strings.

The Portland Piano Trio began playing concerts in early April. Antonacos said they wanted to start the program as a way to give families more options to educate students. She said classical music can be challenging and, because of that, it can also be more rewarding.

“The goal is not to train the next generation of professional musicians, but to create life skills and better brain development and community building,” she said.

While the logistics haven’t been fully worked out, Antonacos said the group wants to teach in a place that is accessible to children, such as a school or church. She said once the program gets going and the children start to learn the instruments, she envisions adding a weekly chamber program of a small group of classical musicians.

“The most important part is the weekly private lesson,” she said.

She said the program is also accepting donations of instruments, because even the cheapest rental option can cost “hundreds of dollars a year.”

Antonacos said there will be public recitals, likely once or twice a year, and she hopes there will be free concerts geared towards families.

“There are a lot of cultural options in Portland,” she said, adding many of them are not always affordable.

The program is open to anyone who can’t afford to pay for music lessons. Antonacos said students who qualify for subsidized lunch in school would likely qualify for lessons.

While schools often do provide music lessons to students, Antonacos said this program will “fill a hole” by offering individual lessons.

“Anything that the kids can get is great,” she said. “This just adds to that.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Pianist Anastasia Antonacos plays in her Portland home on June 27. Antonacos and two other classical musicians, Tracey Jasas-Hardel and Ben Noyes, make up the Portland Piano Trio. They have formed the organization 240 Strings, which will provide free lessons to children who otherwise could not afford them.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.