University of Nebraska-Lincoln & Lincoln Public Schools String Project

UNL / LPS String Project


What is the String Project?

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln & Lincoln Public Schools String Project is a joint effort between the Glenn Korff School of Music at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Lincoln Public Schools. It is an after-school teacher-training program that gives children the opportunity to begin playing a stringed instrument before they start third/fourth grade, or the equivalent in their school. It also affords the same opportunity to students who are home-schooled or who attend private or parochial schools that may not have string programs, as well as students who live in outlying areas. Classes are held twice weekly for beginning students at Park Middle School–Monday and Wednesday at 4:30 and 5:30 (each student will attend BOTH DAYS at one of these hours).


Who are the String Project Teachers?

Classes are taught by string students who are pursuing music degrees in the Glenn Korff School of Music at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Some already have some teaching experience. A number of former University of Nebraska String Project teachers (the program existed previously from 2000–2006) have been highly successful in finding teaching jobs in the schools in Lincoln, Omaha, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nevada, and Illinois. Others have their own private string studios. Additionally, former University of Nebraska String Project students have gone on to pursue music in college, both as music majors and non-majors.


Who is the supervising teacher?

The String Project teachers are supervised by Master Teacher Dottie Ladman, a recently retired string specialist with Lincoln Public Schools. Ms. Ladman is highly respected as a music educator throughout Nebraska. Not only has she been an active teacher in LPS for many years, but she continues to perform as principal violist of the Hastings Symphony Orchestra.


Who is the director?

Dr. Karen Becker, Founding Director of the University of Nebraska/LPS String Project, is Professor of Cello in the Glenn Korff School of Music at UNL. Her interest in the String Project concept comes from having taught for several years in the University of Texas String Project. She studied cello at the University of Texas with Phyllis Young, renowned string pedagogue and former director of the Texas String Project.


Who provides the instrument?

Each student must provide his/her own instrument; rental is recommended. Student participants should contact one of the local music stores or string shops to inquire about rental fees. Note: if your child qualifies for free and reduced lunch through LPS, please be sure to say so on the registration form. Please contact Dr. Becker (see contact information below) if you have any questions regarding a possible scholarship to cover half of the registration fee and/or half of the instrument rental.


When do classes begin?

First Year Students (Vivaldi Ensemble): all parents and students of first year students must attend the Orientation meeting taking place on Monday, Sep. 10 at either 4:30 or 5:30PM (whichever time your child is signed for) at Park Middle School. ALL classes (Vivaldi, Mozart, and Beethoven) start on Wednesday, Sep. 12th. Students who enroll must be available to attend classes two days a week: the registration form allows you to indicate whether you are available Monday and Wednesday at either the 4:30-5:20 or 5:30-6:20 class times. NOTE: Mozart Orchestra will meet both Monday & Wedneday 4:30-5:20 and Beethoven Orchestra is Monday & Wednesday 5:30-6:20.


How are decisions made about who is accepted into the String Project?

First year students will be accepted on a first-come-first-serve basis, with a total of 70-80 students in the beginning classes. All students who have been in the String Project for a year or more are encouraged to continue in the program, as long as they are participating in their school orchestra program. Any students who are already playing and would like to join the String Project for the first time should contact Dr. Becker ( IN ORDER TO BE IN THE STRING PROJECT, ALL STUDENTS MUST BE PARTICIPATING IN THEIR SCHOOL STRING PROGRAM ONCE THEY ARE IN 4TH GRADE. We want your child to be a positive role model for the other students in his/her school orchestra once they are in fourth grade and we support the outstanding instruction provided to string students in LPS.

If you have any questions regarding the registration/payment process, please contact the UNL/LPS String Project director, Dr. Karen Becker:


Phone: 402-472-4253

UNL/LPS String Project Calendar

Fall 2018 & Spring 2019


Fall 2018

Sep. 10 First Year Class Orientation, Rm. 116 (4:30-5:20 & 5:30-6:20) Both Parents and Students should attend!


ALL classes begin Sep. 12 and continue each Monday and Wednesday:


Sep. 12, 17, 19, 24, 26

Oct. 1, 3, 8, 10, 17, 22, 24, 29, 31

Nov. 5, 7, 12, 14, 19, 26, 28


Note: Nov. 28 is the Fall Concert at Park Middle School. All classes on Nov. 28 will take place at 4:30PM, followed by a 6PM performance at Park Middle School.


After the Nov. 28 concert classes will start up again on Jan. 16th (no classes between the Nov. 28th concert and the Jan. 16th classes).


Spring 2019

Jan 16, 23, 28, 30

Feb. 4, 6, 11, 13, 18, 20, 25, 27

March 4, 6, 25, 27

April 1, 3, 8, 10, 15


Note: April 15 is the Spring Concert in Kimball Recital Hall (UNL Campus). Classes that day are in Kimball Hall beginning at 5:30PM, followed by the concert at 7PM.


Concert Attire:

Black (or dark) pants or skirt, dark shoes (no sneakers) and white dress shirt (no t-shirts and no tie)



String Project Staff for the 2018-2019 School Year

Dottie Ladman

Dottie Ladman, Master Teacher

Dottie Ladman has recently retired after 37 years of teaching public school music, the last 27 of which were in the Lincoln Public School system. She most recently taught at Maxey and Kloefkorn elementary schools and Lux middle school. She has also taught at Campbell, Norwood Park, McPhee, Saratoga, and Lakeview elementaries, and Pound Junior High in Lincoln, and at Unadilla Community School, Douglas Community School, and Bennett Elementary School. 


Dottie is principal violist with the Hastings Symphony Orchestra, and plays in the Spitfire Fiddle Band. She earned her Bachelor of Music Education degree at Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1973 and her Master of Music degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1997. After teaching band and vocal music eight years outside of Lincoln, staying home with small children for five years, and substitute teaching for three years, she became a "string specialist" by administrative decree (she could hold a viola so she must be able to teach strings, right?) Over the years she has honed her string teaching skills and become especially good at working with beginning and intermediate level students. She has had articles published in the American String Teacher magazine, Stringing Along NEASTA newsletter and the String Teachers’ Cookbook. 


Dottie’s viola teachers have been Morris Collier and Clark Potter, the latter of whom was most gracious in assisting in the removal of rust formed during seventeen years of not playing her instrument at all. 


Dottie has presented sessions at the Nebraska Music Educators Conference, ASTA National Convention, and for the Lincoln Public Schools music staff and UNL methods classes. Her orchestra has also performed at the Nebraska Music Educators Conference. In 2001 she was given an LPS Gold Star Award. She is a member of the National Association for Music Education and the American String Teachers Association. Dottie has two grown daughters, three precious grandchildren who are her pride and joy, and two cats to keep her company at home. Her hobbies are knitting, genealogy, and raising historic hybrid irises. 

Undergraduate Teachers
Stephen Cantarero

Stephen Cantarero

Stephen Cantarero is a double bassist and educator native to Lincoln, Nebraska. At the age of 10, he started playing music on the bass guitar and eventually found a love for the double bass in high school. During his time playing bass he has performed with wind ensembles, choirs, jazz bands and orchestras in school and rock/funk/pop bands outside of school. He is a current member of Mobius, a jazz influenced alternative rock group based in Lincoln, Nebraska and is also a part of a local cover band that plays 70s and 80s soul music.


Stephen has taught private lessons in classical, jazz, and popular musical settings, has been on staff at the LPS strings summer music camp with Del Whitman at Lux Middle School, and has taught the after school program titled “The Science of Sound” which is a part of the STEM Academy at Dawes Middle School. Stephen is also a student education intern at the Lied Center for Performing Arts where he organizes teacher workshops and works with Kennedy Center teaching artist, John Bertles, to coordinate the Time Warner Cable Science of Sound Spring Break Camp that serves at risk students in the community by introducing them to science concepts and how they relate to musical arts. 

Patrick Knowles

Patrick Knowles

Patrick Knowles is a freshman music education major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Originally from Rapid City, South Dakota, he’s been playing the violin since the age of four through the Black Hills Suzuki School. In high school Patrick went to Allstate Orchestra for four years and actively lead, participated, and tutored in his school orchestras; he also had the privilege of traveling and performing in Europe, China, and Los Angeles on orchestra trips. His influence and motivation to teach music comes from two previous generations of music teachers in his family. Patrick is striving to teach in a public high school after he finishes his undergraduate degree, and perhaps become Suzuki certified.


Hannah Willard

Hannah Willard

Hannah Willard is a Junior Violin Performance major at UNL, under the private teaching of Rebecca Fischer. Since the age of 6, she has loved learning and exploring the violin. She is a lover of chamber music as well as orchestral playing, and has had the pleasure of playing with the Lincoln Symphony on many occasions. She has also played with UNL choirs, and various musical and opera productions. Over the past five years, she has also been involved in summer music festivals and camps such as Madeline Island Music Camp, Wintergreen Music Festival, and Round Top Festival Institute. Born and raised in Des Moines IA, Hannah attended IHSMA All State four years in a row, and played in the Iowa Youth Symphony program for three years. She loves her new home in Lincoln and looks forward to teaching and getting to know the young upcoming musicians of the area.

Christian Schuerman

Christian Schemer

Christian Schuerman is currently a sophomore studying Music Education at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. He graduated from Millard West High School in Omaha, Nebraska, Class of 2015. Mr. Schuerman performed with many different groups throughout his high school career, including orchestras, wind ensembles, choirs, chamber groups, jazz bands, show choir bands, and musical pit orchestras. He served as vice principal in Omaha Area Youth Orchestra’s Youth Symphony, in which he performed with the Omaha Symphony, as well as making All-State Orchestra for three years. He also received the Louis Armstrong and Woody Herman Jazz Awards. In college, Mr. Schuerman has played bass in Symphony Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, and Symphonic Band, and also plays tuba in the Cornhusker Marching Band, Big Red Express Pep Band, and Tuba-Euphonium Ensemble. Current affiliations of Mr. Schuerman’s include the National Association for Music Education, Nebraska Music Educators Association, American String Teacher’s Association, and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity.


Emily Swaters

Emily Swaters

Emily Swaters has been playing violin for over 15 years. Music has been her passion throughout her life. She is the founder and owner of the Swaters Violin Studio, a private lesson establishment based in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. Currently, she is studying to become a music educator at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Through the String Project, Emily hopes to catch a glimpse of what the future may hold for her as a string educator.

Leah Waldvogel

Leah Waldvogel

Leah Waldvogel is an undergraduate Music Education student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She grew up in Lincoln, graduating from Lincoln North Star High School in 2013. She started playing the piano at the age of 7 and the cello at age 8. As a performer, Leah has scored top grades on solos in Lincoln Public Schools competitions. She has played in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Symphony Orchestra for over two years, and is still a current member. She was a member of the NMEA All-State Orchestra while still in high school. As for teaching, Leah has one semester of practicum under her belt, with many more to come, along with many semesters as a String Project teacher to look forward to!

Jake Wheeler

Jacob Wheeler

Jake Wheeler is a music education major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln studying classical bass under Dr. Hans Sturm. He started playing the cello at age 10 and switched to the upright bass at age 14 and has loved the instrument ever since. Throughout high school he played with various orchestras, jazz groups, and chamber groups growing his love for music in his experiences. He is a lover of all kinds of music and gigs around the greater Kansas City area, where he is from. With the opportunity to teach with the String Project, he hopes to spread his love for music and provide his students the same opportunities he has been given.

Dr. Karen Becker

Dr. Karen Becker

Karen Becker is Professor of Cello in the Glenn Korff School of Music at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and director of the University of Nebraska and Lincoln Public Schools String Project. She also coaches chamber music and teaches Cello Pedagogy and Literature. Dr. Becker is an active soloist and avid chamber and orchestral player, serving as principal cellist of the Lincoln Symphony Orchestra and touring regularly both as a soloist and as cellist in the Concordia String Trio. She has performed throughout the United States as well as in Europe, Mexico and Puerto Rico. She is faculty artist with the Red Lodge Music Festival in Montana and the Omaha Conservatory of Music Institute, and often serves as faculty artist for the Ameropa Chamber Music Festival in Praque, Czech Republic. 


Becker has presented at numerous conferences, including international conferences of the College Music Society and national conferences of the American String Teachers Association (ASTA) in Kansas City, Atlanta, Providence, RI, Louisville, KY, and Salt Lake City, as well as the Midwest Band & Orchestra Clinic in Chicago. She has served as president of both the Nebraska and Missouri chapters of ASTA and has served on national committees. She has received the ASTA Citation for Leadership & Merit and the Private Studio Teacher Award from the Nebraska chapter. 


Students listening to string project teachers Teacher with a student with a cello Teacher with a student with a cello
Teacher with a students violins Teacher with a student with a cello

Instrument Rentals

Once you have registered and paid your fee through Slideroom, you can go ahead and check into instrument rentals. You’ll need to take your child to the shop to be fitted for the correct size instrument. We highly recommend renting an instrument since most students will be starting on a ¼ or ½ size instrument. There are a number of places available in Lincoln, including the following:

Capital City Strings
145 S. 56th St.

CGS Music
244 High St.
(402) 328 0677

The Violin Shop
1641 S. 17th St.
(402) 474-1640

Palmer Music
3534 S. 48th St.

Dietze Music
6800 P St. or S. 48th & Hwy. 2

If your child wants to play the double bass we recommend contacting The Violin Shop.

Registration Process

To register for the UNL/LPS String project


If you would like to support a student registration and/or instrument rental.

Donate to the Instrument Rental Fund
Donate to support Free/Reduced Lunch student tuition 

*Our organization name is LPS Music Rocks Me Fund