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Music lives on in jewelry crafted from retired Edmonton Symphony Orchestra strings

Edmonton designer uses retired instrument strings to make jewelry
WATCH ABOVE: A local designer is giving some retired instrument strings a second act. Michelle Dall'Acqua with HeartStrings Jewelry wants to make sure the legacy of music continues in more ways than one.

An Edmonton designer, who uses “retired” instrument strings to make fine jewelry, is making sure the legacy of music continues in more ways than one.

Usually strings are replaced and the old ones thrown out. But Michelle Dall’Acqua is giving them a second act with HeartStrings Jewelry.

“I use acoustic guitar string, electric guitar string, electric bass string, acoustic bass string, violin string, cello, viola and then I’ve just started doing some work with cymbals.”

Each type of string presents its own challenge.

“Each type of string responds differently to heat, pressure, and tension,” Dall’Acqua explained. “The age of it, and how tight the wind is, and how thick it is will affect what I can do with it. Sometimes I don’t know until I’m working with how it’s going to respond.

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“The actual design and creation is very dependent on the string and the materials that are in the string.”

Dall’Acqua started with guitar and bass, with shops like Myhre’s Music, Acoustic Music Shop, Axe Music and Long & McQuade saving old strings for her. Then, she expanded her repertoire to include orchestral instruments.

READ MORE: Edmonton Symphony Orchestra names new conductor – and he’s only 24 

“They just looked like a really interesting and beautiful raw material,” she said. “I decided to approach the symphony with the idea that I would get strings from the musicians in the orchestra, make jewelry, sell those pieces at some of the performances, and use some of the funds from that as a charitable donation.”

HeartStrings Jewelry can be purchased at many ESO events, with part of the proceeds going to YONA.
HeartStrings Jewelry can be purchased at many ESO events, with part of the proceeds going to YONA. Emily Mertz, Global News
Thicker strings lend themselves to larger jewelry, like bracelets and necklaces. Finer strings are better for rings and earrings.
Thicker strings lend themselves to larger jewelry, like bracelets and necklaces. Finer strings are better for rings and earrings. Emily Mertz, Global News
This bracelet and necklace are part of HeartStrings' Celtic collection.
This bracelet and necklace are part of HeartStrings' Celtic collection. Emily Mertz, Global News
HeartStrings Jewelry can be purchased at many ESO events, with part of the proceeds going to YONA.
HeartStrings Jewelry can be purchased at many ESO events, with part of the proceeds going to YONA. Emily Mertz, Global News
Dall'Acqua started crafting jewelry from old guitar strings. Then, she expanded to include strings from orchestral instruments.
Dall'Acqua started crafting jewelry from old guitar strings. Then, she expanded to include strings from orchestral instruments. Emily Mertz, Global News

When staff with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (ESO) heard about the idea, they thought it would be a great way to support young musicians.

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“It just seemed perfect,” said Alison Kenny-Gardhouse, vice-president of music and engagement at the Winspear Centre.

“It was a connection that was meant to happen — that HeartStrings would find YONA and YONA would find HeartStrings.”

Youth Orchestra of Northern Alberta (YONA) – Sistema is a program offered by the ESO. It gives kids between Grade 2 and junior high group instrumental lessons five days a week. In five years, it’s grown from 20 youth to 85. It’s a free program but relies heavily on private donations.

READ MORE: Edmonton’s Backbeat builds confidence and community through rock music 

“Edmonton is a very generous city,” Kenny-Gardhouse said. “I also think that people, when they see what the kids do, they understand the value.

“Music is important in any child’s life and we know from all the brain research that it yields all kinds of great benefits.”

The partnership between YONA and HeartStrings is unique, Kenny-Gardhouse said, and it’s one the musicians are incredibly grateful for.

“I really like to think that some day, some of our YONA students will be playing on instruments of the same kind of quality of our ESO musicians and they’ll be the ones that will be saying that they want to donate those strings back… it really goes full circle.”

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WATCH: Edmonton Symphony Orchestra tees up January lineup 

While not a musician herself, Dall’Acqua says this is her way of contributing to the art form.

“Music is a gift to everyone and this is a way I can make something beautiful and then also be helping others.”

It’s also a way to honour the history of a particular instrument.

“All of the strings have stories behind them — some of them I know, most of them I don’t,” Dall’Acqua said. “Every string that I’m working with has had joy and love and angst go through that string and it still kind of carries the echoes of those feelings. I feel like it still resonates with the music that’s gone through it.

“Music helps define us and it brings us together and it pulls at our hearts and it’s really something to be enjoyed by everyone and that’s reflected in the jewelry.”