Sunday, February 19, 2006

Music Sunday: Growing Music Masters In The Bay State

In Massachusetts, they start'em out young:
Nico Berio Lebau neatly packed up his violin last week, excited that he had just finished his weekly violin lesson with 29 other students at the Ludwig von Beethoven Elementary School.

"I didn't know much about the violin when I started," the 9-year-old West Roxbury resident said. "Now I figured out how to hold the bow and the violin and how to play it."

Berio Lebau is part of Making Music Matters, a music program focused on elementary school students at the Beethoven and nearby William H. Ohrenberger Elementary School. The program, funded by urban education financier EdVestors, is responsible for four separate classes at the school, each with students learning different instruments such as the trumpet, violin, clarinet and flute.

Earlier this month, the young musicians gathered at the Beethoven for their annual concert. They played such songs as "Hot Cross Buns," "Mexican Hat Dance" and the "Star Wars" theme song.

But the school's music is more than just about sound.

"In my experience, I have seen how important it is," said Beethoven Principal Eileen Nash. "It provides a wonderful environment for the students. We see a correlation between the students in the program and how well they do in school. It builds their self-esteem."

In Richard Waddell's trumpet class, about six kids, including fourth-graders Carlson Guillet, Rumel Santana and Ray-Shawn Nunez, toiled with their instruments as they practiced - appropriately so - Beethoven's "Ode to Joy."

"These kids have an opportunity in the Boston Public Schools," said Waddell, who works part-time at the school. "It's working."

"It's fun," said Guillet.

In another room where kids practiced their flutes, children tried to reason why they picked up their instruments in the first place.

"I like playing the flute because it's soft music," said Jonathan Mercier, a 9-year-old from Roslindale. "I play better than anybody else."

Melissa Rodriguez, an 11-year-old from Roslindale, laughed at Mercier's "better than anybody else" comment.

In another room, students practiced violin as teacher Susan Jarvis prodded them on.

And that's where fourth-grader Nico Berio Lebau was seen packing up his violin, which was part of a donation from a Boston-area family, the Klarman family, in honor of their son's bar mitzvah.
The school received about $42,000 from EdVestors this year. This is the third year the Beethoven is participating in the program, which is geared toward fourth- and fifth-graders.

Without the grant, the school wouldn't have the music program.

At EdVestor's
website, I read the following:
A nonprofit clearinghouse and broker, EdVestors offers a continuum of grant-making vehicles for donors, including the innovative Urban Education Investment Showcase, an interactive event where donors hear directly from finalists and make individual grantee selections of their choosing; and the EdVestors Collaborative Fund, where donors and foundations pool their funds to make joint grants. Operating as a donor-driven grantmaking cooperative, EdVestors represents a new model for moving philanthropic capital to under-resourced priorities.
Sadly, without public-minded non-profits such as these, art and music education would disappear entirely in many schools.
See our latest education-related posts right here.