A History of Strolling Strings

Have you ever wondered about the origins of strolling string ensembles? Read on to learn about this lively extension of the string music experience.

Strolling Strings

Strolling violinists have entertained at parties, dinners and social events for years. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Flame Room Golden Strings, a unique group of professional strolling string players from Minneapolis, Minnesota, became the model for future student strolling groups. By the 1970s, Stan Nosal, a Wisconsin high school orchestra teacher, saw the Golden Strings and wondered if string students in the schools could experience strolling as well. He teamed up with James “Red” McLeod, composer and arranger for the Minneapolis Golden Strings, and organized one of the first school strolling string groups. Inspired by the music and strolling of the Golden Strings, Nosal’s high school students began performing McLeod’s audience-appealing music at local social and community events. The group was enthusiastically received by the public, parents, and school administrators. The students enjoyed their strolling experience, and their performances brought recognition to the orchestra program, school, and community. Word of the success of Nosal’s group traveled quickly, and other local string teachers began to form strolling groups as well. These groups showed that strolling is a viable performing medium for young string players. Successful strolling groups have been formed at all levels of instruction, from elementary through high school. Strolling groups typically comprise ten to twenty players. Violinists, violists, and sometimes even cellists play as they stroll through the audience. Accompaniments are often provided by other students playing piano, string bass, or electric bass. Strolling performances are given in a wide variety of settings—at dinners, weddings, social gatherings, civic functions, and formal concerts. Find out how to start your own strolling strings program by reading these three articles in the Orchestra network: Strolling Strings, Part 1 Strolling Strings, Part 2 Strolling Strings, Part 3 Adapted from “New Possibilities: Strings Are Strolling!” by NAfME member Robert Gillespie in the September 1992 Music Educators Journal. —Gregory Reinfeld, November 23, 2011. © National Association for Music Education