Today’s guest blogger is Eddy Kwon, director of MYCincinnati (Music for Youth in Cincinnati)
MYCincinnati is a free, daily, youth orchestra program for children in Price Hill. The program was founded in 2011 on the idea that personal transformation can be achieved through the pursuit of musical excellence. That personal transformation has the potential to uplift families and to change the social fabric of a community. Every student in MYCincinnati has the opportunity to study violin, viola, cello, or double bass and play in an orchestra. Now in its fifth year, MYCincinnati has over eighty young musicians that meet for two hours every weekday in an historic firehouse in East Price Hill. The program consists of orchestra rehearsals, sectionals, private lessons, advanced chamber music, secondary instrument classes, social awareness training, and academic tutoring. MYCincinnati is a program of Price Hill Will, a non-profit comprehensive community development organization.
In the beginning, we had just 11 students, two teachers, a borrowed space, borrowed instruments, and very little money. By necessity, we started small. But that smallness allowed us to dedicate ourselves fully to each of the students and their families, facilitating the growth of a positive, family-oriented culture. When a child missed several days in a row, we called home. When they didn’t answer, we sent Facebook messages. When we didn’t hear from them, we visited their homes. Through persistence and consistency, we developed strong bonds of trust with each of our families. From the beginning, we wanted to make clear that this was about more than learning music. It was about building and strengthening community.
Music as a Vehicle
MYCincinnati’s approach to music education and youth development is unorthodox and informed by its commitment to community building. First, a vast majority of a student’s musical learning happens in a group setting. From day one, a child is embedded within a group of peers, learning as part of a team. If one student is distracting or disrupting the rehearsal, the entire group waits patiently. Instead of emphasizing punishment, teachers are encouraged to reinforce the positive behavior of students who are excelling in the hope of inspiring surrounding students who may be struggling. It is a long road, but the result – a supportive, positive culture focused on group success – is well worth the daily struggle.
I’m so proud of how much we’ve been able to accomplish together over the past four-and-a-half years. MYCincinnati’s students – now numbering over eighty – have performed with the Cincinnati Opera, Maestro John Morris Russell, pianist Awadagin Pratt, Swedish Grammy-nominated songwriter Jens Lekman, and the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, among others. We’ve collaborated and partnered with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the Contemporary Arts Center, the Cincinnati Symphony, and other diverse cultural institutions. We’ve secured grant funding from major organizations and foundations, including Impact 100, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, ArtsWave, and the L&L Nippert Charitable Foundation, among others. And, of course, we’ve moved into our own space – a beautiful, historic firehouse in the heart of East Price Hill.
*Video ~ After 4 Years: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYkhhG8KUu8
Teachers as Community-Embedded Artists
At the core of MYCincinnati’s success is the dedication and drive of its teaching artists. Each teacher brings much more than technical knowledge to the rehearsal – they bring a complete commitment to the growth of each child, immense creativity in pedagogical approach, and a deep love for the neighborhood. It is worth noting that all of MYCincinnati’s staff members live in Price Hill, within walking distance of the program building. We shop at the same Kroger as our students and families, walk to the same parks, and go to the same coffee shop. I can’t run errands in the neighborhood without stopping and chatting with at least one MYCincinnati family. And when I drive down my street to go home, I see MYCincinnati students playing in their yards and sitting on their porches.
Parents as Community Builders
As of now, there are five mothers in the orchestra, attending program daily to learn violin and cello alongside their children. Parents frequently help transport other children to and from the program, and many parents consistently donate snacks. One grandmother has joined the Price Hill Arts Council and is now publishing a book that features Price Hill artists. Almost all parents attend every single concert, connecting with other MYCincinnati parents across traditional barriers of language, race, and class.
MYCincinnati as a Model for Community Building
There is a community building and thriving in Price Hill. This community is diverse, it is connected through music, and it is deeply invested in the health of the neighborhood. Slowly but surely, MYCincinnati’s musicians will become the city’s arts leaders, and their families will be the drivers of growth in Price Hill. It is with their vision and imagination that Price Hill will develop into a strong and vibrant community.
Connect with MYCincinnati online at www.mycincinnatiorchestra.org
or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mycincinnatiorchestra
Contact Eddy at firstname.lastname@example.org