Imagine a room full of six through nine-year-olds. Do the words focused, disciplined, and attentive come to mind?
They would if you stepped into a violin class at CYC-Rebecca K. Crown Youth Center, where sixteen elementary school students are learning to play violin as part of CYC's new partnership with Merit School of Music. Students in the program practice twice a week at CYC-Crown, and seven of those students take additional private lessons at Merit School of Music on Saturdays.
"Merit School of Music exists to transform the lives of Chicago-area youth by removing barriers to excellent music education," says Charles Grode, Merit School of Music's President and Executive Director. "To deepen the impact of this mission we want to partner with organizations committed to helping young people of all backgrounds realize their full personal potential. Chicago Youth Centers brings more than 60 years of success in working deeply and effectively throughout Chicago’s neighborhoods, and I am eager to see all that we can accomplish together, beginning in South Shore."
Ray Rusnak, a member of CYC's Board of Directors and a Merit Life Trustee and past Chairman, brought the two organizations together.
During a typical class, Merit instructors lead students through proper handling techniques, scales, intonation, rhythm, and musicality.
"That sounds very good, class, but who knows what we can we work on to sound even better?" instructor Elizabeth Johnson asked the group during a Thursday afternoon lesson. "It begins with a 'T,'" she hinted.
The students were eager to answer. "I know! Tempo!" "No, teamwork!"
As it turns out, both answers were correct.
“Not only does learning a musical instrument help children build technical musical skills, it also helps them build key social-emotional skills like patience, resilience, communication, confidence, and creativity," says Scott Merrow, Chief Operating Officer of Chicago Youth Centers. "These are skills that empower youth to overcome obstacles, resist peer pressure, cultivate non-violent behaviors, and ultimately thrive in the 21st century.”
The classes are already having a positive effect on CYC families, creating opportunities for bonding, conversation, and shared interest. CYC parent Latisha Thomas shared, "I recently picked my son up from his grandparents' house, and they were sitting together watching different violinists on YouTube. Thank you for creating an interest in this art discipline for both my son and his grandpa."
For Merit School of Music and Chicago Youth Centers, we sense this interest is just the beginning.
See more photos from violin class at CYC Rebecca K. Crown Youth Center >>