The Santa Barbara Symphony started the school year on a high note by reviving its music education programs for local students.

The Symphony’s 2011-2012 Education Workshops include the Strings Workshop for musical newcomers, the Junior Strings Orchestra for students with two years of lessons and the 65-70 member Youth Symphony for students in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Last Thursday, Goleta’s Foothill Middle School started strumming with one of the year’s first Strings Workshops, allowing students at the local institution to learn and practice a stringed instrument on a weekly basis for the remainder of the school year.

Santa Barbara Symphony’s Director of Education and Outreach and newly appointed youth programs coordinator Amy Bassett said the programs aim to familiarize younger generations with the benefits of musical education.

“I think music is crucial to children because it teaches not only music skills, but self-discipline and teamwork,” Bassett said. “Many studies also show that an early knowledge of music helps kids in their future.”

According to Santa Barbara Symphony Executive Director David Grossman, music can strengthen students’ ability to interact with others and serves as a means for creative expression.

“Music offers children a wonderful opportunity to learn how to work together with people and to enjoy the creative spirit and the self satisfaction through acquiring a new way of communicating,” Grossman said.

The Symphony advocates early education to create future symphony musicians and revitalize public interest in the arts, Grossman said.

“Ultimately it is to give them a good experience whether they become professional musicians or listeners,” Grossman said. “We just want them to have an opportunity to explore this art form, especially when music programs are being cut all across the country.”

Third-year music major and UCSB Symphony violinist Andrew Crockett said his own passion for playing the instrument began at a young age through similar programs.

“I started playing when I was five,” Crockett said. “Some teachers did a demonstration at my elementary school and I liked how it sounded. Starting young is the best thing you can do to develop your talent.”

According to Crockett, playing an instrument can motivate musicians in ways other extracurricular activities cannot.

“Music energizes and inspires me,” Crockett said. “I couldn’t get through my day without it.”

The Santa Barbara Symphony hopes more schools will adopt the programs in the future to bring stringed instrument instruction to as many students as possible, Bassett said.

“My vision is to provide quality group string instruction to elementary schools and work with school districts to make that happen,” Bassett said. “Right now we are in Goleta but there is a lot of opportunity for growth.”