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The Moxie Strings bring mentoring mission to Anchorage

  • Author: Chris Bieri
  • Updated: January 18
  • Published January 18

The members of The Moxie Strings have always put instruction at the heart of their mission.

The three musicians in the band have bachelor's degrees in music performance and regularly hold clinics in conjunction with their performances, passing on their classical expertise to student groups.

Now the Celtic-influenced string group, which has taught at over 100 schools, has taken that calling to educate to a new level. With the help of a crowdfunding effort, "The Mox Project" has allowed the band to take their clinics into areas that normally wouldn't have the funds to access them.

The Moxie Strings

"We realized we're limiting ourselves to the number of students we can reach," violinist Diana Ladio said. "I really wanted to start to access the students that don't have the budget for clinicians. It could mean these ideas would have twice the impact."

Earlier this month, The Moxie Strings provided their first fully-gifted clinic at Flint Southwestern Academy in Flint, Michigan, an area hit by both high levels of poverty and a tainted water system.

"It was a place we targeted to go in and offer some positive energy," Ladio said of The Mox Project's initial endeavor.

Cellist Alison Lynn and percussionist Fritz McGirr round out the lineup for the Michigan-based band, which released its third studio album, "Outlet," last month.

The band formed playing Celtic music but has started to take its sound in a more contemporary, experimental direction, which is evident at the school clinics.

The Moxie Strings' brief tour in Alaska will include a stop at Service High School on Thursday.

"It's a blast," Ladio said of the student clinics. "We usually try to do something they won't expect. (Lynn) will use her distortion pedal and I'll use the wah pedal just to hammer home the fact you can do anything. We're the illustration. We are those kids in the orchestra that had a hunger for something different. It is fun to watch their faces. It's interesting to see the light bulb go off when they hear an instrument they are familiar with sound nothing like they expect."

The Moxie Strings

"Outlet" embodies the band's tendencies toward experimentation while still keeping the roots of Irish string music. The album's first track is an homage to Celtic fiddler Eileen Ivers. "Day of the Donut" features both a loop pedal and an electric cello. "The Pop Tune" is the band's take on 21st-century pop, according to its website.

"It took us experimenting to see what our instruments could do," Ladio said.

"We started in the Celtic realm. We still do a lot of it. We love the Irish culture and there are also a lot of opportunities to play at festivals. We realized bluegrass was a natural next step (for the string instruments). Fritz spent some time playing in Ireland and played a lot of different world drums. We were called a Celtic band for five to six years, more recently we are going with contemporary strings. So much of what we're writing is a little pop and we use the pedals."

Ladio founded the band in part with an idea of using it as a vehicle for teaching. Lynn now has a decade of teaching under her belt after being a bit of a hesitant instructor.

"I can say personally teaching is inherent in who I am," Ladio said. "It came pretty easily to me. I don't think Ali had teaching in her life plan when we first started. After we started playing different types of music, teachers would ask 'Would you mind coming and presenting on your process?' It felt amazing to help students start that process themselves. We started offering the idea that this can be done. If we can actually teach them some skills and concepts that leave them feeling more capable, that's really our goal as clinicians."

The Moxie Strings

– Thursday at Service High School

– 7:30 p.m. Friday at Discovery Theatre

Tickets: $40.25, $48, $54.75

– 9 p.m. Saturday at Alice's Champagne Palace in Homer

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