Like many here in the Triangle, we’re big fans of Kidznotes, a nonprofit that strives to bring the benefits of music education to children of all socioeconomic backgrounds.
Kidznotes launched in 2010 to bring free-of-charge orchestral music training to children from low-wealth neighborhoods. The program is modeled after El Sistema, a music outreach program that Executive Director Katie Wyatt participated in while traveling with the Youth Orchestra of the Americas. Now in its seventh (already!?) year of operation, Kidznotes has expanded from working in three Durham schools to serving over 300 students from eleven schools in Durham and now Raleigh. Their growth is a testament to their strong partnerships with groups like the East Durham Children’s Initiative and Band Together and wonderful support from the communities they work in.
Students receive ten hours of instruction a week free of charge, developing their confidence, self-discipline, social skills, and musical talents in the process. Recently, students from the program were selected to perform with the Youth Orchestra of the East at Bard College in Hudson Valley, New York.
“It’s all about access and equity,” says Wyatt. “The program offers all kids, regardless of socioeconomic status, the opportunity to challenge themselves to perform at a very high level.” Eight of the schools that Kidznotes serves are Title I elementary schools, and the majority of program participants receive free and reduced lunch. The majority of program participants are also African American and/or Hispanic, a demographic that has historically been underrepresented in orchestral music.
The benefits of the program are not limited to the students either. Parents, who otherwise might not have been able to afford music lessons, get to see how music can drive social change and make a lasting impact in the lives of their children.
“When parents can see their kids on stage, they get involved,” Wyatt noted. She described a time when the organization had to plan the receptions that follow each of their concerts. Seeing a need, a group of parents in Raleigh volunteered to take over the planning process. Eventually, these parents helped form the Kidznotes Parents Advisory Council, a self-organized committee that still provides fundraising and programmatic support for the organization.
Today, Kidznotes is continuing to seek expansion in Raleigh and welcomes support in many different forms; community members are encouraged to donate used instruments, sign up to volunteer, and attend concerts throughout the year.
To see the kids in action, put their upcoming launch concert on your calendar – October 7 at 6:15pm at Meymandi Concert Hall in Raleigh. It’s free and open to the public. They’ll be side-by-side with the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra and will work with select Symphony members in Masterclasses prior to the performance. We’re thrilled to see this collaboration as long-time supporters of the NC Symphony’s efforts to bring orchestra performances to students across the state and grateful for both organizations and all of their dedication to ensuring high-quality arts education to students, regardless of their family’s income level. Bravo!