The after-school orchestra gives young Boston musicians a shot at learning a string instrument.
Up in the fourth-floor cafeteria at Roxbury’s O’Bryant School Wednesday afternoon, David France had split five young musicians into two groups.
In one corner, two clapped along to a beeping metronome.
In another, three played through a few measures of a tune, again and again, until they got the section just right: the right bow placement, the right notes, the right attitude – that extra oomph on the down-beat when the song bursts into its theme.
“That’s great,” France said when the trio nailed it, his own violin clutched in his left hand as he prepared to play along. “Let’s do it two more times.”
Five days a week for three hours a day, the Roxbury Youth Orchestra meets here, its 20 members – pre-teens to early 20-somethings – passing through three days a week in chunks of a half-dozen or so, practicing their skills on pricey instruments provided for next-to-nothing.
For the privilege….
I believe that when we place the arts at the intersection of innovation and community we can catalyze social change and propel economic growth in a city. In Boston we’re building a world-class youth orchestra in the ‘hood to develop grit in the lives of urban youth. We are also creating a paradigm shift away from mediocrity and towards excellence through music taught with an emphasis on artistic excellence. For so many young people the arts are their only connection to the American dream and can serve as a bridge to the sciences and so many other pathways out of poverty.
In 2013 I launched the Roxbury Youth Orchestra in one of Boston’s most resilient neighborhoods, Roxbury. Students come up to 5 days a week for 3 hours each day after school and learn 3 of the toughest instruments on the planet: The violin, viola, and the cello; but the main goal is social change. In the last two years we have seen increases in academic performance and self-esteem, the creation of positive peer relationships, and incredible increases in focus and determination. The outcomes for these young people won’t be the ones we have written down on paper but will be birthed from the experiences gained over time in an environment that is safe and saturated with the proper tools to succeed.
Addressing economic and race based educational disparities in the lives of inner city youth can be achieved through a consortium of city agents who from various perspectives and missions have an effect on youth social outcomes. Therefore in the next five years we hope to form such a consortium with neighborhood leaders to partner with programs that can create a greater periphery of change in our students’ lives. This will include local food banks to help us provide healthy after school meals for our students who arrive and leave school hungry, partnerships with youth and family services who can help connect us with at risk youth in the city in need of an artistic outlet, and partnering to recruit from faith-based organizations where students are gaining meaning and given avenues for the formation of values. Along with this effort to join the village of workers who are transforming the lives of teens we hope to begin to effect a paradigm shift in the outlook of inner city students showing that minority youth are indeed interested and highly capable of mastering classical instruments. Lastly we hope to begin to connect previously segregated Boston neighborhoods through a triad of orchestras: The Roxbury Youth Orchestra, The Dorchester Youth Orchestra, and The Mattapan Youth Orchestra.
This week we are hosting an opportunity to create a community of supporters around these young people while also creating a space for creative collisions among adults. I love creative collisions because they create a furnace of unpredictably beautiful outcomes. We hope that through our event we will be able to build a fortress of financial support to keep this orchestra in the ‘hood while also inspiring new ideas and movements that will change our world for the better.
Let’s not only “Be the change” we want to see in the world, let’s support it.
Special thanks to our Event sponsors
The Roxbury youth orchestra joined with 30 greater Boston College students and fed 120 homeless people in Cambridge and Boston this past weekend. It was beyond moving to see the students have such a heart for the voiceless. Tis the season when we look away from our own needs and care for the needs of others. #SocialGoodSaturday
What an incredible weekend! We held our first conference!! Over 90 people registered from as far away as Cleveland and New York!!! It was an inspiring day of teacher training, student master classes, and cultivating relationships! #DaretoAspire.