Students from three low-income Durham elementary schools — E.K. Powe, Y.E. Smith and Eastway — make up the KidZNotes program.
Local volunteers, including UNC and Duke students, organize and teach the lessons.
“A lot of children don’t have the opportunity to get involved in something like this so young,” said volunteer Neil Hollenbeck, a Duke University graduate student.
“Some may go on to be musicians, but most will use these transferable skills to their future lives,” said Hollenbeck.
Kathryn Wyatt, executive director of KidZNotes, hopes the program will increase school graduation rate among its participants.
“We imagine ourselves as a social service and music is the vehicle,” Wyatt said.
Wyatt is a graduate of the Abreu Fellows Program, a joint program between the New England Conservatory and the Venezuelan national youth orchestra system, El Sistema.
Kathleen B. Morrison and Lucia Powe, both Durham residents, saw a “60 Minutes” special on El Sistema, the program on which Kid?ZNotes is modeled.
The women began to raise funds and contacted the Abreu Fellows Program looking for someone to run the program. Wyatt gladly took the job.
“It’s been almost two years of work culminating in our launch this past Saturday,” Wyatt said.
The program took applications from families that qualified for free or reduced lunch at the Durham schools. Students also needed recommendations and strong family support to be admitted, Wyatt said.
KidZNotes organizers eventually hope to build up a full orchestra, but right now, the program is only working with violins.
“We didn’t really get to play it yet, but I loved it,” kindergartner Hayden Smith said. “I was so excited to get my violin, I wanted to bust out laughing.”
Since its launch two weeks ago, the children have learned the basics of music literacy, rhythm and the violin.
Ben Fuller, a UNC senior, trumpet player and program intern, said that KidZNotes is not just a musical program.
“The kids can handle a lot more than people give them credit for,” he said. “We just give them the opportunity.”
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