The Granada Music & Arts Conservatory and the Music Academy of the West have partnered to launch an innovative educational program designed to train and nurture a new generation of local classical string musicians.

More than 100 students are participating in Santa Barbara Strings, a comprehensive program that provides a five-tiered, integrated performance education beginning with kindergarten classes and culminating in the advanced, high-school-level orchestra, Virtuoso Strings.

“We have created a unique situation for both parent and child,” Granada executive director Peter Frisch said. “How gratifying to know as a parent that I can take my 5-year-old with a knack for music and an interest in stringed instruments and place him or her in a progressive, 12-year program, studying under master teachers. The affiliation with the conservatory offers these students access to a wide breadth of arts and humanities classes as well. This could easily be a national model.”

“The Music Academy is delighted to support Santa Barbara Strings,” said NancyBell Coe, president of the Music Academy of the West. “This program provides a wonderful and significant opportunity for young musicians in our community. Experience and research clearly show that musical instrument instruction can positively influence children’s lives.”

Mary Beth Woodruff, who conducts the elementary and junior-high-level orchestras Sinfonietta and Intermezzo, is co-directing the program with fellow Santa Barbara native Nina Bodnar, artistic director of music at The Granada Music & Arts Conservatory and leader of Virtuoso Strings.

Bodnar, winner of the Jacques Thibaud International Violin Competition, was concertmaster of the Santa Barbara Symphony and Chamber Orchestra before becoming concertmaster of the St. Louis Symphony under Leonard Slatkin.

Woodruff, who studied at the New England Conservatory, MIT and Carnegie Mellon, was a professor of violin/viola and head of chamber music at Biola University in Los Angeles for seven years. She also has served on the faculty at the Interlochen Center for the Arts and now teaches violin and viola privately in Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley.

Program participants will work systematically through music history from the Renaissance/Baroque periods through the modern era, mastering appropriate repertoire along the way. About 110 local children are involved, more than 70 of them as participants in the Sinfonietta, Intermezzo and Virtuoso Strings ensembles. Providing the vitally important foundation to the comprehensive program are the preparatory Orff and Prelude ensembles for children ages 4 to 8, led by conservatory instructors Claude-Lise La Franque and Barbara Coventry.

“What a gift to witness the tremendous enthusiasm of our music students as they partake of this new program,” said Lana Bodnar, founder and director of The Granada Music & Arts Conservatory, which offers courses in music theory, chamber music, poetry, acting and art.

“I was thrilled to learn that a new string training program has been developed in Santa Barbara,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Harbison, member of the Santa Barbara Strings Artistic Advisory Board.

“This is the way to do it: artist-teachers, Mary Beth Woodruff and Nina Bodnar, who have roots in the city, creating a fine community of young musicians. The entire region will soon be nourished by players raised strong on Bach, Purcell, Mozart, Bartók and, eventually, pieces they write themselves.”

All five Santa Barbara Strings ensembles will perform a program of works by Mozart, Purcell and Elgar, as well as several holiday selections, at 1 p.m. Dec. 12 at Hahn Hall, located on the Music Academy campus, 1070 Fairway Road. Admission is free. A reception will follow the performance.

Open auditions for the Sinfonietta, Intermezzo, Virtuoso Strings ensembles will take place in January. For information about the program, tuition and scholarships, call Linda Burrows at 805.688.7423.

— Vincent Coronado is the marketing director for The Granada.