MY Cincinnati teaches classical music to kids

Despite an occasional glance at the videographer, the children focus intently on their music. With a good tempo and an intermittent squeak, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy flows from young hands holding the bows of violas, cellos and violins. Price Hill’s newest orchestra is bringing classics to kids in a way that may build a whole new outlook and vision for the community’s future.
Music for Youth in Cincinnati (MYCincinnati) is the reason these Price Hill children gather daily after school to study a musical instrument and play in an orchestra. Led by classically-trained cellist Laura Jekel, the program follows the model of El Sistema, an internationally renowned system of building youth orchestras to transform the lives of underserved children through music.
Three elements define the El Sistema program. “First, it’s free and located in an area that may have access barriers in studying classical music,” says Jekel. It is also a great commitment of time and energy. Children study two hours a day under both Jekel and musician Eddy Kwon. Finally, the orchestra is at the core of the students’ learning development. Following the students’ first day, which was an introduction to the instruments, “the second day was in orchestra,” Jekel says, and it has been that way ever since.
Why offer an orchestra experience over the usual private lessons and individual practicing? “Musically, it creates a different kind of musician, one that is not focused just on themselves but on the group,” says Jekel. “Although all ages [7- 13-year-olds] are playing together, all at different levels, the levels are still all progressing ,and the group sound gives the kids confidence.”
That focus on the group dynamic is why a community development organization like Price Hill Will was interested in supporting this youth music program. “The community wanted us to work with youth,” says Matt Strauss, director of marketing and neighborhood promotion at Price Hill Will, but “our goal isn’t just to teach kids to play classical instruments. The program is vigorous and kids have to work as a team and be dedicated.” Despite a wide mix of racial and economic backgrounds, “these kids work together beautifully.”
Do Good:
• Watch: a performance of youth orchestra.
• Participate: Do you know a child who may be interested in this program? Would you like to volunteer or make an in-kind donate ? Contact Laura Jekel, 513-251-3800 (106).
• Find out: about other programs Price Hill Will supports.

By Becky Johnson
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