HURRICANE, W.Va. -- Several waist-high elementary school girls stood in a half-circle around Frederick Myer, casting bows across their violins.
Their instruments ached and screeched "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." Myer periodically picked up one of the girls' instruments, plucked its strings and adjusted the pegs to make sure it was in tune.
More girls trickled in and removed their violins from their cases. He repeated the tune-up for the newcomers. Soon, the tiny classroom at West Teays Elementary was filled with the sound of violins playing in unison.
Having warmed up, their notes were smoother and their bows squeaked less on the strings.
Myer directed them to play more "Twinkle." Then they played "Jingle Bells" and "Happy Birthday." They even played West Virginia's adopted anthem: "Country Roads."
Myer teaches violin and cello to West Teays kids three times a week. One more day out of the week he teaches another group of Putnam County middle and elementary students at George Washington Middle School. His lessons last for about an hour after school.
Myer is a retired professor from West Virginia Institute of Technology, where he taught music and also directed the band. He received his doctorate from Eastman School of Music in Rochester N.Y.
He teaches free of charge. Most of the violins and cellos are his, and he lets the students borrow them for free. They're not orchestra-quality instruments, but his violins still run about $150-$170 apiece. A virtuoso's violin can typically cost anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 and more.
He calls the group the Teays Valley Strings, and he has been teaching the violin classes since 2006. He used to teach violin to Kanawha County students in a similar program. He started teaching at West Teays when he learned Putnam County kids had a desire to learn the instrument.
Any Putnam student can join Teays Valley Strings. Myer sits down with students and makes sure they have genuine interest in the program before he hands them a violin.
"I think it boosts the intelligence of the child if you put enough time into it," Myers said.
The violin is a tough instrument to learn, he said. Apart from having to make sure it's tuned properly, the player must swipe the bow over the strings in the perfect spot to get the correct tone.