Music is power.
And that power can be found every day from 4:00-6:00 at MYCincinnati Youth Orchestra on Warsaw Avenue in Price Hill. This is where a formidable and growing group of young musicians meet daily for intense, high quality musical education.
And the best part is is that it all lessons are FREE and AVAILABLE to kids who would otherwise not be taking classical music lessons. The kids are able to choose between violin, viola, cello or bass. They are also taught drumming and musicianship. Group and private lessons are given and the students are asked to perform at community events and sometimes travel to meet with other young musicians to become even better.
What began with a handful of kids three years ago, has developed more than 50 serious musicians with a growing waiting list.
How wonderful is that!?
Fifty young serious string musicians where three years ago there were none.
Laura Jekel is the visionary who founded MYCincinnati and it's driving force.
She is an outstanding cellist who was chosen to receive a fellowship to help develop El Sistema inspired music education programs in the US.
She has traveled and taught all over the world and although her roots are in Boston, she has chosen to bring her talent to Cincinnati.
She believes in the power of music… that kids shine brightest when faced with the challenge and discipline of learning an instrument and being a part of an orchestra. Laura is committed to using music to as a tool to help kids become self confident and awesome.
But she doesn't work alone…
Laura has found and hired a fantastic bunch of musicians who are just as passionate about using their personal gifts to reach out to kids as she is.
Eddy Kwon teaches violin, Josh Fink... bass, Eric Seligam… music theory and bucket drumming and Laura teaches cello.
Carroll Wallace serves as site coordinator and makes sure that 50 kids are present daily and ready to learn and their instruments are in tune and as ready as they are.
(I was not surprised when I learned that Carroll served overseas as a Peace Core volunteer)
All four are committed and passionate and seem to be able to play anything put in their hands… they are great teachers who know how to get the best from their students.
The kids rise to their expectations because they are eager to please teachers who love them.
It's the very best type of student teacher relationship.
Here, Eric is helping a young musician find the perfect note.
She was trying so hard and so close so many times that when she was able to belt it out, it was hard for me to not to stand up and cheer for them both…the teacher who was so effectively connecting with the student and the student who was working her buns off to do achieve her personal best.
It was a small moment in the music theory classroom, and I was completely impressed, but it was the type of thing that happens hundreds of times a week at MYCincinnati.
During my visits, I quickly learned that there is no such thing as slackers in a strings orchestra.
I got to observe one of the classes on the final day of practice before Spring Break.
The kids were dissapointed that they had to take a week off from practice and were figuring out what they needed to work on at home.
They understood that there were upcoming concerts and expectations to meet and the kids were coming up with their own plans on how they were going to meet them.
They formed impromptu little groups during their snack break to practice some of the more challenging pieces.
I love music, but I don't play an instrument… and so I stand in complete awe and admiration for those who play and even more for those who teach the very young.
Cincinnati has been gifted with this group of energetic young musicians who are working hard to develop and inspire even younger musicians.
And for the youngest, learning to play an instrument and be a part of a musical community is a very powerful thing.
MYCincinnati youth orchestra is a truly unique and remarkable program deserving of our support, but unfamiliar to many.
This is where my big mouth comes in handy.
While MYCincinnati is recognized and respected by many professional musicians, it remains too much of a secret to the rest of the community.
I would like to shout from the rooftops that our hometown is host to this most remarkable music education program where dedicated teachers are meeting with determined young people to create gorgeous new musicians.
Laura Jekel is trained by some of the best music educators in the world and could have taken this program anywhere.
She chose Cincinnati because she saw a future here.
She saw Cincinnati as a place where an urban youth orchestra could be nurtured and grow into something wonderful, and it's working.
The program has proven to be successful and has plans for even more growth.
The teachers have more to give and the kids are eager to learn…they have big plans for their future including a brass program. Eric can't wait to teach his kids how to play trumpet and the waiting list for new students continues to expand. Kids are not so patiently waiting to become a part of a music program where they are required to practice for at least ten hours a week.
As a mom, I know that this is a very good thing and would like to do what I can to keep MYCincinnati strong.
If you are interested in helping to build this growing group of young Cincinnati musicians please contact Laura and arrange to visit.
I can personally guarantee that you will also be inspired by the energy and dynamic of the program and will leave MYCincinnati wondering what you can to help them thrive.
Can you see Henry peeking through the top window?
He now has cello aspirations and is excited to begin his own lessons.