KidZNotes Introduces Classical Music Education to Kids

By Sarah Ross
UNC Co-Editor
The Durham VOICE

It is a typical Saturday morning for more than 30 kids at the Holton Career and Resource Center in East Durham, but typical in this case is free of cartoons and lounging around.

These kids have swapped those activities for violins and classical music training — and from the looks of it, they could not be happier.

First things first: Kids gather on Saturday morning to learn how to hold their violins. (Staff photo by Sarah Ross)

Through the newly formed KidZNotes program in Durham, 60 children are now receiving world-class music education and training free of charge.

The program is modeled off of the highly successful El Sistema music program in Venezuela that since 1975 has provided over 800,000 children with classical music and orchestral training.  The Abreu Fellows Program was created in the United States to help bring the broad social change Venezuela has experienced from El Sistema to the U.S. through a similar curriculum.

“It’s about the music, but it’s also really about developing a capacity for leadership and learning,” Duke student volunteer Clara Yang said. “And it’s fun.”

KidZNotes Executive Director Katie Wyatt is one of 10 Abreu Fellows chosen to start up these programs in the United States. Wyatt is assisted by a number of volunteers and teachers from the area, and also receives help from many partnership organizations such as the East Durham Children’s Initiative, Durham Public Schools and the Durham Symphony.

Executive KidZNotes Director Katie Wyatt talks with students and parents after class Saturday, Oct. 2. (Staff photo by Sarah Ross)

Students are chosen from three local elementary schools, E.K. Powe, Eastway and Y.E. Smith. The program allows for 20 students from each school, and though attendance varies from class to class, currently all spots have been filled. The majority of the students in the class are pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, but third grade students have also been chosen to act as teachers and mentors for the younger kids.

“The first part I love is getting the violins out,” said 5-year-old Hayden Smith, “but I like everything about this class that we’ve been doing.” Hayden is a student at E.K. Powe Elementary School.

“I can’t believe how much they get out of this,” said her mother, Emmy Smith. “They soak it in like a sponge.”

Smith, like many of the parents, stays around to watch the class and also to help out whenever needed. Volunteer parents serve as extra hands to help during the lessons, but also help to create the sense of community Wyatt says is important in the program. “You want your children to succeed at it and to enjoy it,” said Cindy Eltayeb, a mother of two children in the program. “They’re more dedicated to it than they are to video games.”

Duke University provided the new and used violins that were given to all students Saturday, Sept. 25. High Strung Strings also partners with KidZNotes to help maintain the quality of the violins. Students have practices after school four times per week and a group practice every Saturday morning.

“I have hopes for our kids to go on to adopt the principles of self discipline and respect,” Wyatt said, “and an appreciation for the beauty in things. I hope that they never stop wanting to educate themselves”

Another goal of the program is for students to remain active in their music for as long as possible. Though KidZNotes is still in its first month, Wyatt hopes the program will continue long into the future.

“We hope to have funding for [KidZNotes] to last forever,” Wyatt said. “I’d love our third graders to be in KidZNotes until they graduate high school.”

The KidZNotes website says the program is intended “to combat poverty, strengthen inner-city education, and foster positive decision-making to unlock the world.” But from the eyes of a 4-year-old, with a big smile and a violin in hand, it is all about having fun.

5 thoughts on “KidZNotes Introduces Classical Music Education to Kids

    • Thank you. It’s amazing what music — and several committed educators — can do to lift up the human spirit — and thus the entire community.

  1. Thom Cranford says:

    Wow, Sarah, great story! It is exciting that inner-city kids are being given the gift of classical music at a tender age, knowing their overall intelligence will benefit and that they will have music as part of their lives for all their many years. I’m also impressed with your writing skills. You have inherited your grandparents’ talents and are now carrying the writer banner for them. And I am always happy to see someone from the texting generation who knows spelling and grammar. Keep up the good work!

  2. Sarah- I enjoyed reading your story,
    Music adds a deeper dimension to one’s life. . .I have band rehearsal tonight and I can’t wait! I feel lucky to have the chance (on a regular basis) to find that perfect vocal harmony with my band mates,
    These children are being exposed to the joy of music at such an early age. Who knows what good things will come from it?!

  3. Hello

    I want to put my son into a vocal class, so I was wondering if you provide vocal classes for kids. Please let me know.

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