Since November, 26 students from a dozen towns in northwest Connecticut have participated in the After School Arts Program's Side-by-Side: The Inter-district Strings Project.

They have been working with Waterbury Symphony Orchestra musicians in preparation for a very special concert.

These young musicians have learned a varied repertoire from WSO professionals, while focusing on fundamental techniques, ensemble skills and musical interpretation.

On March 3, participants performed at the Warner Theatre with 20 professional WSO musicians for Torrington public school students in grades three through eight.

One student, Seb Taylor, first participated in the Inter-district Strings Project while he was in sixth grade.

Now a senior at Shepaug High School, Seb was thrilled to perform as first chair violin in the concerts this week.

Strings students will perform again with the entire 70-piece Waterbury Symphony Orchestra during its season concert on Saturday, March 14, at Naugatuck Valley Community College.

"The ASAP side-by-side strings workshop is a treasure," said parent Kathy M. Root, describing her family's experience with the program,

"My child has now participated for three years in a row," she said. "Each time I have been moved to tears by the transformation of these young musicians."

"Equally impressive is the fact that the performances expose hundreds of children to live performances of classical music. ... Priceless," she said.

The program depends on corporate and individual donors for support. Without the help of the Community Foundation of Northwest CT and the BOAT Fund, Torrington School District, the Carlton D. Fyler and Jenny R. Fyler Fund, a fund of the Community Foundation of Northwest Connecticut, and Torrington Savings Bank, these concerts wouldn't have been possible.