Small Orchestra – Big Impact
Necessity really is the mother of invention. Just ask Cheryl Christner, Managing Director of Simply Strings in McCook. When the Christner’s moved to McCook there was no strings program there at that time. Through playing as a family at local nursing homes and assisted living facilities, as well as civic events, it was discovered that there had been a strings program in McCook at one time. People started coming out of the woodwork who too, wanted to play. All ages came together as ‘Simply Strings’ which is a multi-generational group, from seniors to very young ones.
The group gave their first concert in 2015, and about 200 audience members attended. Without the financial help of a mini–grant through the Nebraska Arts Council, it would be difficult to make ends meet. Each concert is getting more involved, sometimes bringing in outside artists to play with them. It has become a mainstay in the community, and it is not unusual for people to approach Cheryl all over town after concerts to say how much they loved it.
Their recent concert, titled Journey, featured music from other countries as well as slides in the background of art that depicted each country being represented. “My heart has always been for people to experience something,” Cheryl said. “It’s not just about playing a bunch of fast notes, and while it may not have been the most difficult pieces, the songs and accompanying pictures took people to that place.”
Simply Strings has grown to a group of 32 players who perform one big concert each year in the Fall. Cheryl attributes its success to the fact that it has filled a niche that McCook didn’t have. “The world is glutted with electronics,” Cheryl said, “We didn’t want to see these old instruments die.”
Simply Strings hasn’t just become a mainstay for the community, it’s an important connection for the musicians as well. One orchestra member commented that this was the first group she had been involved with that made her feel like she really belonged. This is no small feat for a relatively small program that touches the lives of many in and around McCook.
Your donations to the Nebraska Cultural Endowment help make grants available to groups like Simply Strings so they can keep on making beautiful music and big impacts on their communities.