The Moxie Strings, an eclectic performance duo, visited EMS last week as part of their national tour to schools and concert venues. The pair, Diana Ladio and Alison Lynn, were both classically trained from a young age and each hold Bachelor of Music degrees. In adding electric variations into their repertoire over years of performance, they have developed their own unique, modern sound. Likewise, they couple their desire for performance with a passion for teaching, and they have therefore been visiting a variety of schools to help inspire young musicians. As Diana stated to EMS students, “Think about your dream musical life. Strings are in every genre of music; they’re making all the sounds you could possibly imagine. So, I want you to think about what types of music really call to you…. Think about what sounds you love, and know that this instrument is capable of all that. The sky’s the limit.” True to their word, the Moxie Strings are forever looking to innovate their own craft and imagine themselves in new venues, whether working with a DJ, in a hip-hop ensemble, a rock band, a jazz group, or an orchestra. Some of their current renditions include Celtic and southern origins, fiddle and cello arrangements that they modify with electric accompaniment to involve percussion and a wide range of tones. They emphasized the importance of learning by ear, and that, while being able to read sheet music is still critical, much of their ability to make quick decisions, to improvise, and to enjoy creative freedom resides in their practiced attention to sound, itself. Diana added, “I’m always asking myself, ‘What can I add to the scenario? What can I make up?’ If you can answer those questions with your ears, you can play with anyone, anywhere.” They therefore taught the students a series of short arrangements, by ear: one set for the violins and another for the cellos. While emphasizing creativity and liveliness, The Moxie Strings played portions of each set, which the students played back, and the entire 3rd through 8th grades built coherence and confidence over playful repetition. In essence, each musician played off of the collective energy in the room, and the results were electric. During a brief rehearsal, the whole student group learned the specific set and could modify aspects of it to become increasingly complex. Many even begin to riff off of the established pattern within impromptu solos. Apart from Mary Anne, not many of the faculty (including myself) have any tangible musical ability, and our wide eyes, glowing smiles, and nodding heads revealed how impressed we all were in hearing the students’ renditions, often leaning over to one another to mutter, “That’s awesome.” The Moxie Strings will return to EMS in March to work with the students again, and their visit will be punctuated by a live performance.