The Creative Strings Workshop and Festival, which Columbus native and acclaimed jazz violinist Christian Howes started with a handful of students, turns 16 this year when it returns Sunday, July 1, through July 6 to central Ohio.
In addition to educational programs to help more than 100 budding string musicians find their footing, the event has grown to include 20-plus performances at local libraries, a downtown church and various venues in Delaware, including the William Street United Methodist Church.
“The students who attended last year never stopped talking about it throughout the year,” Stacy Lemke, music department chairwoman for Delaware City Schools, wrote in an email. “They were so excited to hear that the festival was going to be held at (the church) again. The concert at the end of the festival is very enjoyable. Chris does a great job of making every student feel special on stage.”
Howes, a former longtime resident of Clintonville who now splits his time between Columbus; Nashville, Tennessee; and New York City, expressed some amazement that what began with a small group of students at a local bed and breakfast is now 16 years old and getting larger each summer.
“As it becomes more of a bigger thing, it just invites us to take it all the more seriously,” he said.
Howes has credited his daughter, Camille Vogley-Howes, with inspiring him to turn to teaching when she was 5 years old. She is now in her third year at Oberlin College, the first violinist to be accepted into the jazz program, her proud father said. Vogley-Howes also serves as outreach coordinator for the workshop and festival, which became a nonprofit organization in 2013.
“Before that it was always this bootstrap kind of thing,” Howes said. “Now we’re operating in an organized, professional capacity.”
“The workshop and festival is an intensive week filled with educational clinics and live performances, providing string players of all ages the opportunity to be coached by and play alongside world-class artists,” Vogley-Howes wrote in announcing the 2018 lineup of events and instructors.
This year's guest artists include guitarist Rez Abbasi; fiddlers Alex Hargreaves and Jason Anick; Miami-based singer and violinist Nicole Yarling; Columbus’ Cedric Easton, who now works in New York for Jazz at Lincoln Center; and many more local and internationally established musicians.
Easton is a past participant in the workshop.
“I remember being at the Columbus Music Hall in those early years,” he said. “I’ve tried to participate every year.
“For me, it’s unique because while I teach, I don’t work with string players. For the past two years now, Chris has asked me to present a community concert each year. Last year toward the end of the community concert, 70 percent of the room was up dancing. It really caught fire with the string players.”
The community concerts take place at the United Methodist Church for All People, 946 Parsons Ave., and feature a free meal for those who attend. This year’s concert is set for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. July 5.
“We’re trying to bill it as concerts and conversations, so there will be conversation from diverse aspects of the community,” Howes said.
“I would be remiss to not say that the Delaware community is so fortunate to have such a world-renowned artist like Chris share his talent with the younger students,” Lemke wrote. “By doing so, he is also demonstrating what it means to give back to the place where he came from. He could choose to take the festival anywhere in the world.”
“I’ve always kept a foothold in Columbus,” Howes said.