Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Announces OrchKids, a New After-School Program for Baltimore's Inner-City Youth
Program endeavors to use music to effect systemic change in low-income neighborhoods
Community partners include Baltimore City Public School System, local nonprofits; Partners to collaborate in program implementation
Baltimore, Md. (May 20, 2008)-The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) today unveiled a major education initiative, OrchKids, an after-school program designed to effect social change and nurture promising futures for youth in Baltimore City's low-income neighborhoods. In collaboration with a broad array of community partners, the BSO's OrchKids program will provide music education, instruments and mentorship to Baltimore's neediest youngsters. Details of the program were announced this morning at a press conference at Harriet Tubman Elementary School (HTES), where the pilot year will commence in September 2008 with approximately 25 first graders. Among the speakers were BSO Music Director Marin Alsop; Baltimore City Public School System CEO Dr. Andrés Alonso; Baltimore's Deputy Mayor for Community and Human Development Dr. Salima Siler Marriott; BSO President and CEO Paul Meecham; and HTES Principal Yvonne Cunion.
Under Music Director Marin Alsop's artistic leadership and direction, OrchKids is a cornerstone of the BSO's vision to expand the Orchestra's relevance within the city's broad and diverse community. To effectively implement OrchKids and to create a network of community support, the BSO is undertaking the program in partnership with several key local organizations, including the Baltimore City Public School System, The Peabody Institute, Arts Everyday, Baltimore School for the Arts and The Family League. Each partner organization will contribute its own expertise and unique resources to the program.
Commenting on the new program, BSO Music Director Marin Alsop said, "Since coming to Baltimore, one of my priorities has been to create a school program that combines music and mentorship to have a positive impact on Baltimore City youth. I believe passionately that music has the power to change lives, and the BSO should lead the movement. By providing a strong foundation and developing the whole individual, we can position these students for lifelong success-success not limited to music, but in all areas of their lives. The community support for this program in the planning stages has been overwhelming. I know OrchKids will be successful because it is part of a larger vision for Baltimore's future."
OrchKids is inspired by Venezuela's El Sistema, the music program that in 30 years has transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in that country's most impoverished areas. Like El Sistema, OrchKids is intended not only to provide musical instruments and training, but to address some of the pervasive social challenges effecting underserved youth. To this end, the BSO's OrchKids program will use music to cultivate fundamental life skills such as self-expression, cooperative learning, discipline and creativity, all of which have been linked to improved social and academic outcomes. The program, which will be offered to children at no charge, will fill a gap in affordable, quality after-school care in the city of Baltimore.
Dr. Andrés Alonso, CEO of the Baltimore City Public School System, remarked that "OrchKids is a tremendous opportunity for the students at Harriet Tubman Elementary School. This is exactly the kind of enrichment and partnership with Baltimore's cultural institutions we want for all of our students."
Funding for the planning phase and first year of OrchKids is made possible in part through the generous support of Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker. Music Director Marin Alsop has committed $100,000, structured as a four-to-one matching gift, intended to motivate and inspire others in the community to provide additional support to sustain the OrchKids program through the critical first few years of implementation and growth.
To launch and facilitate this new initiative, the BSO has hired Dan Trahey as the OrchKids' program manager. Mr. Trahey has been active in the planning stages of OrchKids, working closely with the BSO's senior leadership to cultivate community partners throughout the city and establish the program's curriculum. In addition to overseeing program operations, Mr. Trahey will manage a part-time staff of professional music instructors and program assistants. Most recently the community manager for the Hartford Symphony and the program coordinator for the Peabody Institute's Tuned-In initiative, Mr. Trahey holds a bachelor's of education from the Peabody Institute and a master's of music from Yale University.
OrchKids Program Model
Beginning in September 2008, approximately 25 first graders from West Baltimore's Harriet Tubman Elementary School will participate in OrchKids. Students, who will be known as OrchKids, will participate in the program three days per week, receiving music instruction and taking part in enrichment activities.
Music curriculum will be based on "active learning" principles, and will incorporate age-appropriate games and activities to teach music fundamentals and to develop musicianship. In the second half of the school year, students will be introduced to different musical instruments, and before the end of the year, they will choose their own instrument and begin lessons. Enrichment activities will be designed to teach students about their communities, develop social and leadership skills, and bridge cultural divides. See press kit for OrchKids sample week.
The BSO's community partners will play an integral role in the design and success of OrchKids, and some have begun planning for performances and other activities that will be central to the OrchKids experience. Activities will include trips to local cultural institutions, community improvement projects and visits from local leaders. The program will also encourage parental involvement in the children's development through family-oriented social activities, including opportunities for families to hear Baltimore Symphony concerts. The musicians of the BSO will support OrchKids through open rehearsals, BSO on the Go presentations and school visits, and pre- and post-concert "meet and greets."
The OrchKids program will grow as the students grow: the inaugural class is expected to continue in the program through the fifth grade and each year a new class of first graders will enter the program. As children become musically proficient, older children will be encouraged to mentor their younger counterparts, creating a self-perpetuating system in which leadership skills and cooperative relationships are fostered.
Research suggests that students participating in after-school and arts programs experience significant positive improvements in social, academic and behavioral outcomes ("The Impact of Arts Education on Workforce Preparation," May 2002, The National Governors Association). With oversight from The Family League, the BSO plans detailed, regular tracking of each student's academic, social and musical progress throughout his or her involvement with the program.
"We're all hopeful that the children who participate in OrchKids will do better in school, and grow musically," said Marin Alsop. "But the real measure of this program will be whether these children do better in life."
About Harriet Tubman Elementary School
Harriet Tubman Elementary School is named for the slave abolitionist who aided slaves to freedom. Even in the midst of personal trials she held strong to her mission. We endeavor to follow her model by helping students succeed academically and socially. Formerly known as Robert Fulton Elementary School, the school was renamed for Harriet Tubman in 1977.
The school is located in West Baltimore City. Though small in population, at this time, the staff, students and parents are huge on their expectations for students' success. We endeavor to create a setting that will provide opportunities for change in our students, parents, staff and community. In 2007, the school exited school improvement as measured by the Maryland State Department of Education. The student population (98%) qualifies for free and reduced lunch. We are partners with Johns Hopkins Hospital in a research project which is studying the effects of living in a high crime/violence area has on the academic and social development of youth. We offer after-school academic remediation, academic enrichment and cultural enrichment programs.
The Harriet Tubman Elementary School enrolled 204 students in the current school year. The staff includes one principal, a part-time assistant principal, 13 classroom teachers, two support teachers, two resource teachers and six office and custodial support staff. This staff supports 13 classes for academic instruction. We offer vocal and limited instrumental music, computer instruction and a physical education program which addresses multiple aspects of healthy living.
About El Sistema
Founded in 1975 by economist José Antonio Abreu as Social Action for Music, Venezuela's El Sistema program has grown into a social movement that has changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people across the Latin American nation. Officially known as Fundacion del Estado para El Sistema Nacional de las Orquestas Juveniles e Infantiles de Venezuela ("National Network of Youth and Children Orchestras of Venezuela") and funded by the Venezuelan government, El Sistema uses music to protect the social welfare of its young people.
El Sistema is comprised of 102 youth orchestras and 55 children's orchestras throughout the country. Children are taught instruments at an early age, and continue through the program into young adulthood. The program is well known for its many successes in positively affecting the lives of young people from the country's most impoverished, crime-ridden neighborhoods. Some program participants have gone on to have major international careers, including the recently appointed music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, 27-year-old Gustavo Dudamel.
El Sistema was recently the subject of a documentary film entitled Tocar y Luchar, ("To play and to struggle"). In April 2008, the program was featured on CBS's "60 Minutes."
About the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) is internationally recognized as having achieved a preeminent place among the world's most important orchestras. Acclaimed for its uncompromising pursuit of artistic excellence, the Baltimore Symphony has attracted a devoted national and international following while maintaining deep bonds throughout Maryland through education and community outreach initiatives.
The BSO made musical history at the start of the 2007-2008 season when Maestra Marin Alsop led her inaugural concerts as the Orchestra's 12th music director, making her the first woman to head a major American orchestra. Maestra Alsop's arrival marks the dawn of a new era for the BSO, as she brings her highly praised artistic vision, her dynamic musicianship and her commitment to accessibility in classical music to BSO audiences.
For more than 80 years, the BSO has maintained a vibrant educational presence throughout the state of Maryland, supporting the local community through its commitment to actively "giving back" with its education, outreach and mentorship programs.
The BSO performs approximately 30 education concerts and open rehearsals each year for more than 60,000 area students in pre-school through 12th grade. Cornerstone initiatives include BSO on the Go, a program which brings small groups of BSO musicians into schools for free and interactive music education workshops, and "Side by Side" concerts, which allow student musicians to rehearse and perform a full-length concert alongside BSO musicians.