Sunday, November 13, 2011

OrchKids at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Beatboxer Shodekeh

In the last few weeks, I've had the opportunity to hang out in Baltimore with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's OrchKids program, an El Sistema-inspired program to build community and position children for lifelong success through music.

For one week, Abreu Fellows Jose-Luis Estrada, Aisha Bowden, and I spent time speaking with Dan Trahey, the director of OrchKids, and his wonderful team of teachers and site coordinators. We observed and taught at Lockerman Bundy Elementary School, the current hub of OrchKids (there are four sites), drove through the different neighborhoods where the programs are located, and attended a performance of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. The highlight for me was spending time teaching Jazmine, the talented fourth-grade horn player (and the only horn player at OrchKids, at least for now!)

Jazmine, the OrchKids horn player

This week, I went back to Baltimore to speak at the Community Engagement Through Music Education conference with OrchKids and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. About 12 music educators and arts administrators gathered for two days to learn about starting and running successful music programs for community development, as inspired by El Sistema and OrchKids. I spoke about positioning leaders in this movement as creative managers, exceptional teachers, fundraisers, and advocates for this work, as experienced in the Abreu Fellows program.

Unlike the week with the other Fellows, this week I had the lucky opportunity to experience an OrchKids concert. Beat-boxer extraordinaire Shodekeh came to OrchKids to work and perform with the kids in an improvisational piece, and I got to hang out with him and a couple of the OrchKids students pre-concert.

Ashanti interviews Shodekeh

The concert was truly inspiring. A few hundred parents, friends, and family came from the neighborhood to support their children. I couldn't stop watching the beaming faces of the families when they saw and heard their babies performing for them. This is what it means when we talk about "building community:" giving the families a sense of pride in their children and in what the young people in their neighborhoods can do through musical accomplishment.