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String Teaching Simplified for Those New to String Teaching


From the basics of teaching strings to refining your pedagogical string knowledge, this 4-hour immersive session will provide those new to teaching strings with the information, tools, and resources needed to effectively teach orchestra. This informational and practical session will focus on the foundational principles of string playing and teaching including instrument position, tone production, shifting, and vibrato. Participants will select a primary string instrument to learn during this hands-on workshop and can elect to join either beginning or intermediate level breakout sessions based on experience and interest.  The Midwest Clinic and American String Teachers Association have come together to sponsor this exciting opportunity.


This Pre-conference event will take place at McCormick Place West in Chicago, IL on Tuesday, December 17 from 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM CT.  


Attendees will be able to add registration for this event at the end of their Midwest Clinic Conference Registration.  Due to limited seating, only Professional and College Student registrants are eligible to attend.  



Registration Fees:

  • Directors $100
  • College Students $50


Tentative Schedule


Beginning Track - Healthy Instrument Position, Left Hand, Bow Hold, Tone, D Maj. Scale

  Intermediate Track - Foundation Review, Shifting (and extensions), Vibrato

 2:30 - 4:45 LARGE ENSEMBLE

  2:30 - 3:30 Developing Tone and Intonation

  3:45 - 4:45 Effective Rehearsal Strategies in the String Classroom

4:45 - 5:00 WRAP-UP, Q&A





Dr. Stephen Benham is Professor of Music Education and Chair of Performance at Duquesne University. He has degrees from the University of Minnesota, the University of Michigan (M.M.), and the Eastman School of Music (Ph.D.).

Previously, Dr. Benham held teaching positions in K–12 schools in Oregon, Michigan, and New York. He maintains a busy schedule as a conductor, clinician, speaker, and adjudicator, with professional appearances in 45 states and 40 countries across Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia, including over 300 clinics, multiple residencies, and extended workshops. 

His areas of expertise include string pedagogy, methods, curriculum, and assessment. His research interests focus on cultural issues in music education and increasing access to music instruction in underserved populations. He is lead author the ASTA String Curriculum: Standards, Goals, Learning Sequences for Essential Skills and Knowledge in K–12 String Programs and Yes You Can! The Band and Choral Director’s Guide to Teaching Strings. He has authored several works for scholarly journals and handbooks, including publications by Oxford University Press and Sage Publications. He is a member of the writing team for Alfred Publications. Dr. Benham is a consultant in the development of new music programs in the US, Europe, and Africa, and has served in multiple leadership positions in several states and is a past president of the American String Teachers Association. In 2024 he received the ASTA Marvin J. Rabin Community Service for having had “a profound impact on string education locally, nationally, and internationally.”


Dr. Frank M. Diaz is an associate professor at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Before his appointment at IU, Dr. Diaz held appointments at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance, the University of Oregon, and at school districts in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Florida. He is also former Music Director and Conductor of the Corvallis Youth Symphony in Corvallis, Oregon.

Dr. Diaz has served as a conductor, adjudicator, presenter, and clinician in over 30 states as well as internationally. Ensembles under his direction have performed at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic, the National Association for Music Education, and at various conferences and honor festivals across the United States. At the university level, he has led orchestras at Indiana University, UMKC Conservatory, and Florida State University, and taught courses in instrumental music education, conducting, orchestral literature, and musicians’ wellness.

Dr. Diaz holds degrees in education, performance, and conducting from Florida State University and the University of South Florida, and has been an active performer on trombone as well as electric and double bass in wind bands, orchestras, jazz ensembles, rock bands, Afro-Cuban ensembles, and various other groups throughout Florida, the Northeast, and the Pacific Northwest. He was born in Havana, Cuba and currently lives in Bloomington, Indiana with his wife, daughter, and three cats. 


Heather Lofdahl is Assistant Professor of Music Education at The Ohio State University, where she directs the string education program. Prior to her appointment at Ohio State, she served as Music Director of the Greensboro Symphony Youth Orchestra, Program Coordinator for the Peck Alumni Leadership Program, and violin and viola teacher at The Music Academy of North Carolina. She has over a decade of experience teaching elementary through university orchestra students in Illinois, Georgia, and North Carolina.

Dr. Lofdahl is published in the String Research Journal and American String Teachers (AST) Journal. She is an active member of the American String Teachers Association (ASTA) and the National Association for Music Education, and she serves on the ASTA Content Committee. Through these organizations as well as the Suzuki Association of the Americas and the International Society for Music Education, Dr. Lofdahl has presented research at the Symposium for Music Teacher Education, International Society for Music Education Conference (Glasgow, Scotland), American String Teachers Association National Conference, and various state conferences. Her research is focused on equity and access in music education, best practices of outstanding string teachers, and practice behaviors of string students.

Dr. Lofdahl holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in Music Education and Viola Performance from Augustana College, Master of Music degrees in Music Education and Viola Performance from the University of North Carolina Greensboro, and a PhD in Music Education from the University of North Carolina Greensboro.


Dr. Rebecca MacLeod is Professor of Music Education at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign where she teaches string pedagogy and conducts the University of Illinois Philharmonia Orchestra. She is the author of Teaching Strings in Today’s Classroom and contributing author to Teaching Instrumental MusicRehearsing the Middle School Orchestra, and Teaching Music Through Performance in Orchestra. A passionate advocate for increasing access to string education to all students, her research on working with underserved populations, vibrato technique, music teacher education, and music perception has been presented at the International Conference of Music Perception and Cognition, Music Research and Human Behavior International Conference, International Society for Music, Music Educators National Conference, National Association for Music Education National Conference, American String Teachers National Conference, Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic, Society for Music Teacher Education, and music educators state conferences. She is immediate Past President of the American String Teachers Association.



James Mick, Ph.D., is Professor of Music Education at Ithaca College in upstate New York where he teaches courses in string pedagogy, orchestral rehearsal techniques, instrumental conducting, and the psychology of music teaching and learning. He is a past president of New York American String Teachers Association and served as music director of the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra from 2015 to 2023. He previously taught elementary and middle school orchestra in Texas, and high school orchestra and jazz in New York. He holds music education degrees from Florida State University, Ithaca College, and Texas Christian University.









Felipe Morales-Torres is an orchestra teacher, conductor, clinician, and researcher working to further liberation and healing in music education. He is the Assistant Director of the Bornoff Foundation and manager of the FASE Diverse String Teachers Fellowship, using his 10+ years of experience leading public school and community-based orchestra programs to support fellow teachers. Felipe also teaches instrumental music education at Northern Kentucky University and is a conductor for the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestras, which have earned various conference performances and national recognitions for his diverse and progressive programming. He conducts students in region and state honors festivals across the US and Latin America, and serves on the board of the Ohio String Teachers Association and the ASTA national committees for Conducting and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.








Dr. Kristen Pellegrino is Professor of Music Education at the University of Texas at San Antonio and Past-President of American String Teachers Association (ASTA). Kristen’ degrees are from the University of Michigan (Ph.D. in music education with cognates in violin performance and general education; M.M. in violin performance/chamber music performance) and the Eastman School of Music (B.M. in music education and violin performance).

Kristen has presented over 115 pedagogical and/or research sessions at international, national, state, and regional conferences. She also has 40 scholarly publications in leading journals and chapters in book. Kristen was co-editor of The Oxford Handbook on Preservice Music Teacher Education in the United States (2019), for which she authored/co-authored three chapters, and Teaching Instrumental Music: Contemporary Perspectives and Pedagogies (2023), in which she also authored/co-authored eight chapters. She is co-authoring a third book, Journeys of Becoming and Being Music Teachers, which is based on a seven-year longitudinal study, written in compelling narratives for college students. 

 Kristen’s background in music education includes eight years of public-school string teaching at the high school and elementary levels (Fairfax County Public Schools, VA and Warwick Public Schools, RI), and 16 years of collegiate teaching experience. Before teaching in college, she was a full-time performing musician, including performing in the Chagall String Quartet through Chamber Music America’s Rural Residencies Grants, and she taught private violin lessons for over twenty years. She continues to perform as a member of RI’s Music on the Hill Chamber Music Festival. 


James Ray is Associate Professor of Instrumental Music Education at Western Washington University (Bellingham, WA). He teaches courses in string education and music theory, and directs WWU’s String Sinfonia. He also coaches chamber music with the Bellingham Youth Chamber Players and is music director of the Olympic Strings Workshop hosted at Olympic National Park. Previously, Dr. Ray spent twelve years teaching public school orchestras, from beginning classes to award-winning high school ensembles.

Dr. Ray is a sought-after clinician, adjudicator, and guest conductor. He has been a featured guest at venues from school orchestra retreats to multi-school honor ensemble festivals. At the national level, he is an adjudicator for WorldStrides Heritage Festivals. Dr. Ray has guest conducted the Bellingham Symphony, and has appeared with the Port Angeles Symphony as a guest conductor, soloist, and guest concertmaster. Additional performance experience includes military service as a keyboard player, violinist, and assistant rehearsal conductor in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Dr. Ray is a frequent presenter at state and national conferences, and has served on various committees with the Washington Music Educators Association and the American String Teachers Association. His peer-reviewed papers have been published in the American String Teacher and the Journal of Research in Music Education. He is a contributing author to the textbook, Teaching Instrumental Music: Contemporary Perspectives and Pedagogies.

 Dr. Ray holds a BM in violin performance from Central Washington University, an MA in secondary teaching from Western Oregon University, and a DMA in music education from Boston University.


Bruce Walker is an Associate Professor of Music at Columbia Basin College in Pasco, WA, Music Director for the Walla Walla Symphony Youth Orchestra, Past President of the Washington chapter for the American String Teachers Association, on the Board of Directors for the Suzuki Association of the Americas, College/University representative for the Washington Music Educators Association, and the 2021 Music Educator of the Year by the Washington Music Educators Association. Previously, he held the position of Music Director for the Yakima Youth Symphony and Oregon East Symphony Youth Orchestras.

During the summer months, Mr. Walker works throughout the United States and Canada at various Suzuki institutes, music camps, festivals, and retreats. Internationally, he has also worked with the Youth Excellence on Stage Academy in collaboration with American Voices, a non-profit, cultural exchange organization. Through this organization, he has conducted orchestras and taught cello in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. As a conductor, Mr. Walker participated in many workshops and music festivals across the United States such as the Marrowstone Music Festival, Pierre Monteux School for Conductors and Orchestral Musicians, various workshops sponsored by the Conductor’s Guild, Astoria Music Festival, Rose City International Conductor’s Workshop, and the University of Oregon Orchestral Conducting Institute. He has appeared as guest conductor with the Central Washington University Symphony, Oregon East Symphony, Yakima Symphony, Portland Columbia Symphony, Walla Walla Symphony, Olympia Symphony, and the Musicians of the Spokane Symphony Orchestra.

Memorable for his for his engaging teaching style, positive student rapport, and extensive knowledge of the orchestral repertoire, Mr. Walker is in high demand as an adjudicator and guest conductor for All-State and Honors Orchestras nationwide. Recently, he has been a clinician for the 2024 National Orchestra Festival and conducted the 2024 Music in May Festival in Forest Grove, Oregon, as well as the 2023 All-State Orchestras in Oregon, Alabama, and Georgia.

Mr. Walker earned Bachelor of Music degrees in Music Education and Cello Performance from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and a Master of Music degree from Central Washington University focusing on Orchestral Conducting and Cello Performance. In the fall of 2019, he began his Doctor of Music Arts degree in Music Education through Boston University. Outside the classroom and off the podium, he enjoys hiking and traveling around the Pacific Northwest, experimenting with new recipes on his BBQ pit and smoker, or shopping for and admiring argyle socks.


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