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Music prof, graduate compose book

By DaYona McLean
On January 28, 2013

Unable to find a children's book about string instruments for her 2-year-old daughter, a music professor partnered with a recent Winston-Salem State graduate.
"I really wanted to find a book that would introduce instruments in a way that my daughter, Leena, would understand," said Christina Placilla, associate professor of music and director of Winston-Salem State's Chamber Orchestra.
"I couldn't find anything that introduced all of the instruments. Nothing that really talked about the lesser known instruments like the viola."
Placilla began writing  "Meet Lola the Viola and Her String Instrument Family" in March 2012; it was published November 2012.
The book is for readers 6 to 8 years old, but Placilla said that 3-to-5-year-old children can read the book and understand it.
She said that by focusing the book on the lesser known string instruments, young children might gravitate toward them when given the option to study music in later years.

The book personifies string instruments as characters with names; "Violet the Violin"; "Chester the Cello"; "Buster the Bass"; "Hazel the Harp"; and "Gary the Guitar."
The main character in the book is "Lola the Viola."  
Placilla said she chose the name because of a family story about how her cousin pronounced the name of her instrument.   When she was 2 years old, Placilla's cousin asked to see her viola which he called "Lola."
After writing the book, Placilla asked a music major, Alexander Hollowell, to illustrate the book.
Hollowell said during a ride to the American String Teachers Association Convention, Placilla talked about her idea of a children's book.
 Hollowell is an August 2012 music business graduate from Salem, Mass.
"I happened to be in the back seat of the car sketching to pass time, so I decided to draw up some sketches for the book," Hollowell said.
"After the drive, I showed Dr. Placilla my sketches and that led to us working together and eventually publishing the book."
Hollowell said he was strictly the book's illustrator.
Placilla and Hollowell decided to use their project to benefit string educational charities.
They are donating 10 percent of book's proceeds to the Winston-Salem Symphony Educational Programs and the WSSU String Programs.
They chose the Winston-Salem Symphony organization because of the organization's outreach commitment to public schools and music education.
They are also donating funds to  the WSSU String Programs for the orchestra.
Placilla said the orchestra has to purchase music, instrument strings and instrument replacement parts.
"We don't have the same kind of visibility as the choir and the band, and we don't have the same opportunities because we're very small. We can't reach out into the community and do big events," Placilla said.
 "There's no battle of the orchestras."
The orchestra has nine students, two faculty and one staff member.
Placilla's paperback book costs $12 and is available  on Kindle for $3.75.  
After  paying self-publishing fees and taxes, Placilla said in the first two months the book made about $60.

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