KidZNotes and N.C. Symphony in harmony

By Taylor Rankin
UNC Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE

KidZNotes kicked off its second year by announcing a new partnership with the North Carolina Symphony on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011.

KidZNotes participants (from left to right) Asia-Rae, Sofia, Morgan and Gracie have fun during rehearsal on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011. The children got to experiment with percussion instruments as KidZNotes begins to expand its instrument offerings. (Staff Photo by Taylor Rankin)

“It’s all about having this bright, shining example of professional musicians and even international artists that come from all over the world playing all kinds of instruments to be able to demonstrate the world of classical music,” said Katie Wyatt, the executive director of KidZNotes.

After a year of successful rehearsals, performances and community events, the program, dedicated to bringing classical music to children from four of Durham’s low-income elementary schools, is ready for the opportunities that come with this partnership, Wyatt said.

A kick-off event hosted at the Holton Resource Center on Sept. 17, exposed the children to the first of these opportunities.  N.C. Symphony principal cellist, Bonnie Thron, performed at the event.

“The kids were blown away by what they could become,” Wyatt said.

The children received their instruments for the year after the performance.  They can keep the instruments, most of which were donated by Duke University, for as long as they are participating in the program, Wyatt said.

Wyatt’s definition of “participating” means 10 hours of after-school weekly rehearsals, performances and in some instances special instruction at school.

Bonnie Thron’s performance on the cello was particularly relevant considering this year is the first year KidZNotes veterans had the option of playing the viola or cello, Wyatt said.

Nine-year-old Ayah Eltayeb, a student at E.K. Powe Elementary School, has been with KidZNotes since its founding.  She graduated to the viola at the beginning of this year after setting herself apart from her peers on the violin in 2010 and early 2011, Wyatt said.

A young member of KidZNotes’ Mozart orchestra clutches her violin in “concert rest” position as she smiles at her dad who watches from the side. (Staff Photo by Taylor Rankin)

Wyatt sees the new partnership with the N.C. Symphony inspiring her KidZNotes participants to excel on the violin in the beginner “Mozart orchestra” so that they have the opportunity to graduate to more advanced instruments like Ayah did.  The symphony is hosting an upcoming field trip for KidZNotes as well as workshops to demonstrate the versatility and fun of orchestral music.

Wyatt says she also hopes that workshops will show that African-Americans and Latinos can have “strong and successful careers in classical music.”  The majority of KidZNotes’ now 100 students are African-American and Latino.  They come from four Durham schools—Eastway Elementary School, Y.E. Smith Elementary School, E.K. Powe Elementary School and Club Boulevard Humanities Magnet Elementary School.

The official partnership is a direct result of the relationship between Wyatt, the former education director at the N.C. Symphony, and Sandi Macdonald, the current president and CEO of the N.C. Symphony.  Wyatt describes Macdonald as a lifelong mentor both in music and in community building.  Macdonald, herself, was greatly inspired by El Sistema, the Venezuelan music program after which KidZNotes is modeled.

Jessica Nalbone, the current N.C. Symphony education director, said of the new partnership, “This is the start of an exciting venture, and one which aligns wholly with our orchestra’s mission to serve North Carolina’s students through music.”

KidZNotes instructors are equally as excited about the potential for this partnership.  LaSaundra Booth, director of chorale studies at Wake Forest-Rolesville Middle School, teaches the beginner KidZNotes orchestra, the Mozarts.  She looks forward to the “once in a lifetime opportunities” that come from the affiliation.  She cited a visit from Jamie Bernstein, the daughter of world-famous composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, as one of those opportunities.

Wyatt also sees the opportunities enriching the lives of her students’ parents and families.  The partnership is “all about community building and really opening doors for the kids and their families.”

KidZNotes encourages family participation beyond committing to a rigorous rehearsal schedule.  Wyatt says she would love to see parents stay through rehearsals and attend North Carolina Symphony sponsored events.

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