Urban Strings Columbus enriches the lives of musicians

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – Over a decade ago, bassist Halle Craig signed up for Columbus Urban Ropesa youth orchestra for students in underserved communities.


What do you want to know

  • Catherine Willis founded Urban Strings Columbus in 2007
  • Three orchestra students compose and the band performs compositions they created
  • The Half Notes and Premier Orchestras perform in central Ohio and are made up of college students ages 11-17.

Little did she know that in 2020, after graduating from college, the organization would come calling her once again.

“After the pandemic hit, I really wanted to make sure we could rebuild and recover from all the uncertainty of that time and not be able to perform,” Craig said. “So I saw there was a need and Ms. Willis said we really needed your help, so I came back.”

Catherine Willis founded Urban Strings Columbus in 2007.

She comes from a musical background. Her mother was a self-taught pianist and her father was a singer.

Willis said the group had the opportunity to explore the works of African-American composers and arrangers who were pioneers of the time.

“When we focus on our African American composers and arrangers within the genres that we play, it inspires our kids. And at this point, we have three students in our orchestra who compose and we play compositions they created.

Craig, a jazz student at the University of Otterbein, continues to play bass and fulfill her role as assistant director. She said it’s an honor to carry on the tradition and she encourages others to do the same.

“This orchestra has really shaped us growing up, given us a community to be part of, and we’re all working on developing skills and making music together,” Craig said. “I usually encourage them to pursue at least a music minor. Practice, be true to yourself, and don’t be afraid to express yourself and find your own sound.

The Half Notes and Premier Orchestras perform in central Ohio and are made up of college students ages 11-17. The groups practice three Saturdays a month on the campus of Columbus State Community College.

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