Homer Opus celebrates spring with the Festival of Strings

Homer Opus, a nonprofit organization that provides instruction in string-based music programs to Homer youth as well an adult Codas ensemble, is in the midst of their first monthlong celebration of the Festival of Strings.

The festival is a coordinated effort at bring youth, music and community together. There are two remaining performances in the festival.

Strings Take Wing will take place on Sunday, April 14 at 2 p.m. at the Islands and Oceans Visitor Center for a free public concert. The Paul Banks Elementary School Preludes, Fireweed Academy Frescoes and Chapman School Eagle Ensemble are all second grade performers.

Homer Opus Earth Day Concert, a celebration of music and nature with the Homer Youth String Orchestra Club will take place on Sunday, April 21 at 4 p.m. at the Islands and Oceans Visitor Center. Youth in this club are in third grade through high school. Adult performers will also be present.

These two performances were preceded in the festival by an Alaska Trio Concert with performers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, a Paul Banks Elementary School concert and a less formal play-in at Chapman Elementary with at least 80 second grade students performing from both Chapman and Fireweed, according to Kim Fine, Opus board member and liaison for Fireweed Academy.

Abimael Melendez is the Homer Opus string director. His biography on the Opus webpage provides a long and detailed history in music education. It notes that Melendez received a Bachelor of Music in violin performance from the National Experimental University of the Arts and a Doctorate in Educational Sciences from the Bicentennial University of Aragua in Turmero, Venezuela. Melendez also received his master’s in Music Education from Bard College’s Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and comes to Homer OPUS after teaching in an after-school music program in Boston public schools. This is the second year that Melendez has been the director.

Jessica Williams is the program manager for Homer Opus. She started her role in December 2023 and is responsible for the administrative and logistical components of the club. She also is responsible for volunteer coordination and community out reach.

Williams said the human effort in the festival involves at least 100 people or more. This includes all the youth, instructors, volunteers and Opus board members.

“Homer Opus is responsible for the violin-in-the-school program. The Sunday concert is really significant because these kids are going to be moving on to West Homer and Big Fireweed next year. A lot of what we do is coordinate the older youth orchestra club, HYSOC. This is an ensemble for young people and we’re hoping that is going to continue to grow.”

HYSOC was originally founded by Linda Reinhardt approximately 20 years ago. She is now a member of Homer Opus.

Williams said the organization plans to go into the local schools in May to tell the students more about HYSOC and hopes to recruit more participants to join the program.

“I think the most important thing to take away from this festival and our school program is how invaluable music education is. Homer Opus is happy to fill that niche so having community support really means a lot to us.”