Tarika Lewis’ Strings of Soul violin class provides inner-city youth with a rare opportunity to study classical music and receive formal training in music theory. In this era of reduced funding for the arts in schools, fewer and fewer children are exposed to stringed instruments and classical music. Many have never even seen a violin much less had an opportunity to learn to play one. Tarika Lewis and Strings of Soul give them this chance.
Tarika is an inspiring teacher with a gentle, calm demeanor and passionate commitment to children. She’s also an outstanding musician who’s performed with a wide variety of artists—from classical symphonies to West African dance ensembles—and toured internationally with renowned jazz saxophonist John Handy. She’s the founder of the Oakland Black String Ensemble as well as an accomplished writer, expert illustrator and highly respected community activist.
When not teaching and mentoring children, Tarika is busy as the Art Instructor/Counselor for the Healthy Babies Project—an Oakland-based substance abuse treatment program. She’s developed an effective model in which women in recovery use art to visualize, explore and understand past issues, traumas, addictions, present insights, transformations and future goals of developing drug free lifestyles.
Violinist, illustrator, writer, lecturer, teacher, mentor, dancer, mother and grandmother—Tarika is constantly perfecting and using her talents to set an example and make significant changes in her community. In 2001, she was awarded the Congressional Recognition Award by Congresswoman Barbara Lee for “Performing Artist and Recognition of Community Work.” In recognition of her accomplishments, she was also honored with induction into the Alameda County Women’s Hall of Fame.
Tarika’s class reminds me of when I was a child, when high schools had marching bands, jazz bands and symphony orchestras. Music gave me an opportunity to explore interests and discover a passion. It also gave me the discipline and confidence to take on life’s challenges.
Today, despite all the talk of “no child left behind,” cutbacks have eliminated school music programs and left lots of kids behind. This makes what Tarika offers so important. She’s a wonderful person who makes a huge difference in kids’ lives.
– Parent (anonymous)