The Bow-Dacious String Band is more than a group of children playing guitar, violin, mandolin cello and banjo, director of the Urbana, Ill.-based ensemble Robin Kearton said at a concert in Chattanooga on Sunday: It's a community in progress.
"I have this philosophy that all the parts are important," Ms. Kearton said. "That's why we call ourselves a band and not a string orchestra."
Started in 2003, the group has about 50 musicians between the ages of 5 and 18 who meet every Sunday to perform a wide repertoire of world music, such as old-time blues, French, Cuban, classic rock and bluegrass.
They took their act on the road this week as part of a three-state tour, which included a stop in Atlanta for the National String Teachers Conference, where Ms. Kearton presented her method of uniting students at all ages and skill levels.
Like a one-room schoolhouse model, Ms. Kearton said the older, more advanced students mentor the younger ones. She also teaches her students the basics of improvisation and how to create the rhythm they will need to play any kind of music.
"I wanted to give them the tools for them to play after high school, to play into their adult life," she said.
Tina Hope, whose son, 12, daughter, 8, and husband all play with the band, said the group also has fostered new connections among area families. About three years ago, Ms. Kearton founded the Community Center for the Arts that Ms. Hope said has become a vibrant cultural resource for the visual and performing arts.
"It's brought a lot of families together to create this kind of community and support these kinds of arts," she said.
Eight-year-old violinist Pranali Vani is among those whose family is involved with the arts community and joined the band for their Southern tour. She said she was enjoying the chance to perform for new audiences.
"I like the concept that we get to make people happy with our violins," she said.