Saturday Strings Program

Free Neighborhood Strings Training

The Lighthouse Ministries Saturday Strings program is a free strings training program provided to students in the Lighthouse Ministries after-school program in Southeast Canton. The mission of this program is to provide free, high quality lessons and instruments to students, making musical learning a more accessible and equitable experience.

The pilot program ran in the spring of 2022 and 11 students from southeast Canton received strings training in group lessons with area educators. These students, aged 7 to 18, met at the One Center for Leadership in Downtown Canton on Saturdays to take lessons and participate in ensemble playing.

After the success of this pilot, the program has been expanded to span the whole 2022-2023 school year! To support this program and learn more about Lighthouse Ministries, visit

Lighthouse Ministries

Lighthouse Ministries has been serving the youth of Southeast Canton since 1996. They provide a safe place for neighborhood children to learn and grow through after-school programs, ministry clubs, summer activities and acts of service. Today the Lighthouse employs 15 people and has a volunteer base of more than 40 individuals. Programming includes the After School Program with 40 children attending daily, which includes tutoring and homework assistance as well as time for enrichment and recreation. They  also offer the Summer Activities Project, the Summer Enrichment Program and Youth Ministry Clubs for all ages.

Program Instructors

Raylena Mae Bevington

Program Director/Violin Instructor

Ralena Mae Bevington is the Program Director for the Lighthouse Saturday Strings Program and Canton Youth Strings instructor. A native of Canton, Ohio she began playing the violin and taking vocal lessons at the age of seven. Ralena achieved her Bachelor of Music Education Degree (BME) from the University of Mount Union, graduating cum laude. While attending the University of Mount Union, she played the viola in the Alliance Symphony. She is currently the Director of Strings for Canton City Schools where she teaches at McKinley HS (Downtown & Main Campus) and the Arts Academy at Summit. Ralena achieved her Master of Arts in Education as an Intervention Specialist, with a reading endorsement, from Malone University. In 2013, alongside Ms. Betty Smith, Beverly Bevington and S.C. Toe, she became Co-Founder of the 501c3 program En-Rich-Ment. This program gives inner-city children the opportunity to learn any musical instrument at no charge to the family.  In Ralena’s career, she has achieved numerous recognitions including: The Williams Scholarship in Fine Arts, Mu Phi Epsilon Merit Award, The Gerald & Esther Garland Palmer – ‘32 Music Scholarship, Joseph A. & Rhea M. Jeffries Memorial Scholarship, Cecil T. & Marian H. Steward Award, The National Cabinet of Mount Union Women Scholarships, and Top 10 Finalist in the Canton Symphony Music Educator of the Year two years in a row. Aside from teaching music, Ralena’s is an avid equine enthusiast participating in many events including Ranch Riding and Cutting. 

Nicholas Desjardins

Cello Instructor

Nick Desjardins is a fourth-year music education major at Kent State University. At Kent he is studying cello with Si-Yan Li. He plays in pit orchestras in Canton, Alliance, Akron, and Chagrin Falls. He currently teaches private cello lessons at Woodsy’s in Kent OH. He is also the Co-founder of Legion: A Contemporary Cello Quartet. They perform and record various genres of music and use contemporary techniques to create new and exciting arrangements. He has studied under Arleen Scott, Alicia Tremmel, Hannah Lintz, and Kathryn Griesinger. Nick is overly excited to be working with Canton Symphony Organization, impacting its youth members in the way that the organization impacted him. 

Elizabeth Pratt-Fontes

Viola Instructor

Elizabeth Pratt-Fontes currently serves as a music educator for Canton City Schools, where she teaches strings at Crenshaw and STEAMM @ Hartford. Elizabeth achieved her Bachelor of Music Education degree from Kent State University, graduating magna cum laude. She has performed with various ensembles, including the Kent State University Orchestra, Kent State Wind Ensemble, Alliance Symphony Orchestra, and the Canton Comic Opera Co. Elizabeth has taught overseas as part of the Kosciuszko Foundation’s Teaching English in Poland program, which gives Polish students the opportunity to practice English speaking through the arts. In Elizabeth’s career, she has earned several awards including the Honors Scholar degree distinction, the Fennell Medallion Scholarship, Kent State University Orchestra Society Scholarship, Christine Hamann Scholarship, Joseph J. Divis Scholarship, and the National School Orchestra Award. Outside of the classroom, Elizabeth enjoys reading, cooking, and spending time with her husband and fur babies.