As a music major in college, I was reminded time and time again that music is both a science and an art – to be a musician you have to learn the technical skills to make music, but you have to bring your heart and soul to the stage for the melodies to truly come alive.
In addition to cultivating a lifelong love for the craft, learning to be a musician provides opportunities to build many crossover skills that can be applied in the ‘real world.’ Performing gives you confidence, hours spent practicing instill a dedication for excellence, and being a part of a band teaches the power of teamwork. For kids, music lessons are also life lessons.
Yet while art is priceless, musical instruments and weekly lessons do carry price tags. And those prices can be steep. For families on a tight budget, that can feel unattainable.
That’s where Kidznotes comes in.
Kidznotes, a local non-profit dedicated to teaching music to create social change, provides instruments and instruction free-of-charge to children in the lowest-income neighborhoods of Raleigh and Durham. In an effort to give kids a chance to shine while developing their talents and self-esteem, Kidznotes teaches music to children from pre-kindergarten through high school, providing 10 hours of instruction each week – that’s 10 hours of constructive learning and socializing with friends, instead of 10 hours glued to a screen watching television or immersed in video games.
Oakley Lyon, one of the dedicated Kidznotes teachers, gets to observe the students in action during their lessons: “Whether they show it or not, kids want to succeed. They want to impress friends, family, and even people they have never met. By making success fun and rewarding, we are sneaking in a lesson in discipline and the stick-to-it spirit that will help them succeed later in life.”
And it’s passionate teachers like Oakley who become more than just instructors; they become mentors, coaches and role models for these kids. These teachers’ investment in helping shape our community’s kids doesn’t escape the notice of parents either:
“I’m so thankful we were given this opportunity. Without it, our family wouldn’t be the same. The instructors are so in tune with the students – they don’t let anything slide. They’re always there for my Kiarra.” –Shamia Truitt-Martin, mother of seventh-grader Kiarra
If you were to attend a Kidznotes performance, or see them performing in the community, the families of the musicians would echo a common theme: Kidznotes is transforming lives through the power of music. Check out what some of the Kidznotes families shared with us:
The Ultimate Durham Duet: Sisters Strive for Success in Music and School
Seventh grader Jessie Marin will tell you that music is fun, but it’s also hard work. For the last five years, Kidznotes has given Jessie the dream and the tools she needs to pursue her dream to master not only the violin, but the guitar as well. Jessie’s parents, Rodolfo and Yesenia, have noticed, “The program requires Jessie to be extremely disciplined and organized for her to complete the 10 hours of Kidznotes instruction per week, along with her homework and household chores. But pursuing excellence in music and in school has enabled Jessie to bloom into a more confident student – you wouldn’t believe the transformation we’ve seen over the years.”
Jessie’s love of music was passed on to little sister Jackie, a second-grader, who began following in her big sister’s footsteps when she was just in kindergarten. However, as the second child, Jackie is the little rebel and has literally marched to the beat of her own drum by studying percussion. Learning the very specific wrist movements required for the snare drum can be difficult, especially for little hands, but this does not deter Jackie, it just makes her want to work harder. That can-do attitude learned in her music lessons has led into excellent grades in school. This sister act is sure to be in the spotlight in both the classroom and on stage.
The Carrolls Make Music a Family Affair
Grandmother Beatrice Newsome has a front row seat every Saturday morning as a classroom volunteer for Kidznotes. She snags the best seat in the house to watch her rising stars, second-grade twins, Josiah and Jeremiah Carroll from Raleigh, prepare for performances in their choir and ‘Intro to Strings’ classes.
“Practicing and performing in ensembles provides the camaraderie and structure that help Josiah and Jeremiah focus their high levels of energy on creating something beautiful for themselves and the whole community,” says Beatrice.
She’s not the only one who feels this way – proud godmother Courtney drove all the way from Greensboro to join Beatrice and mom, Channing Carroll, to see the twins’ first concert of the year. The whole family is excited to share Josiah and Jeremiah’s accomplishments and support them along the way. Oh, and let’s not forget Grandpa! He wasn’t able to attend in person, but received a virtual performance via cell phone so he could enjoy the magic of music, too. And just like that, from the practice room to the stage, Kidznotes programming becomes more than just instruction; it becomes a transformative way to build a positive network of support for families and communities.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is honoring Kidznotes during our Month of Thanks with a $5,000 donation to help them continue to build a small (in stature) but mighty orchestra of strong citizens for our community.
Kidznotes teacher Jessica Tanner couldn’t have said it any better: “Kidznotes is not just a music education program, it is a social movement. It is meant to better children’s lives through music. The goal is not to create fantastic musicians who are ready to go on to the conservatory; the goal is to create better human beings. Kidznotes for me is a passion; it is a mission; and it is a movement.”
Jessica – we agree! And that’s why we’re proud and excited to support Kidznotes and the work they do in our community. Thanks to the Kidznotes staff, teachers, volunteers and parents for supporting our kids and helping them learn to hit the right notes onstage and in life.
Want to get involved with Kidznotes as a teacher or volunteer? Do you have an instrument to donate? Know of a potential student? Find out how you can join the movement here and learn about their partnership with Band Together to achieve their goal of serving 1,000 kids by 2020.