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Midwest Youth Orchestra

Books, Brushes & Bands for Education

5920 Hohman Ave, Hammond, IN 46320, USA
Director: Rovelli Grib
Category: Community Engagement Program
Award: Silver, 2020

Project Description

After polling the members of our community, those in our current programs (Midwest Youth Choir and the Midwest Youth Band) and also researching other outlets for group-based orchestral instruction, we found it had become clear that a stringed instrument program was highly desired.

The objective of this project was to provide a tuition-based classic stringed orchestra program serving the under served population of Northwest Indiana and the Chicagoland area was needed.

Within this reasonable, inclusive tuition-based program, parents have a financial investment and students are learning the value of participating in a larger group beyond their school program if it exists. However, for some, we are a student’s only experience of an orchestral instrumental education. All public, private, parochial, and home school students, grades 3 to 12 from any zip code, are welcome.

Specifically the city of Hammond, which is the largest city in Northwest Indiana, does not have a symphonic orchestra for public or parochial students. Many of our students start too late on an instrument, period. Many cannot afford private lessons. Therefore, they are not confident to audition for a more seasoned group. This circumstance prevents under served students from these experiences. Gratefully, the Midwest Youth Orchestra provides the tools for these under served students to audition for other more
rigorous groups if desired.

The Midwest Youth Orchestra was founded in 2016.

Students have three levels of programming that they can participate in starting at the beginner level where students learn the basics of their instrument of choice. After completing this level, they enter the intermediate section which continues to refine their musician skills. After demonstrating their competency, they may audition to participate in the Midwest Youth Symphonic Orchestra which has been developed in March of this year.

Students who are accepted as members of the Midwest Youth Symphonic Orchestra rehearse together with the selected members of the Midwest Youth Band and perform at our annual concerts and any other musical opportunities presented to our organization. To this date, students who are accepted into the Midwest Youth Symphonic Orchestra do not have an additional fee and participate free of charge.

Due to the experience and knowledge of the director, Rovelli Grib, we are looking forward to our first performance gala September 12, 2020. Furthermore, we are beginning to plan additional performance opportunities here in the US and some abroad.

Target Audience

The target audience for this project is all families in our region with a primary focus on the under served population specifically in Northwest Indiana. We do strive to serve as many Hammond residents as possible as we were founded to initially serve Hammond, but have broadened our base to reach more people. However, as long as a student can maintain reasonable attendance, their residency does not matter.

Stats (from open data

  • 81% of the students who attend School City of Hammond qualify for free and reduced lunch, therefore all students district wide receive free breakfast and lunch daily.
  • 79% enrolled public school students graduate from high school (2017 rate)
  • 13% of Hammond residents are college graduates
  • 8% of Hammond residents didn’t not finish 9th grade

Overview of planning and execution process for this project

With the close of the summer program, we make sure to engage our students before the concert to see who will be returning for the fall. We collect their registration fee so that students can keep their instrument and continue to practicing at home before the fall program starts. After reviewing our current roster, we reach out to families in our organization from the last two academic years and invite them back to participate. We do have two discounts to encourage registration–refer a friend and multiple sibling discount.

With our program starting at the beginning of September, we implement recruiting through the local school system with audiences with individual principals and a district-wide principal meeting and other community based events which may include but are not limited to, i.e., National Night Out for Crime, back to school events, and in class demonstrations. Once we launch the program we continue to have classes twice weekly for an hour per section. This schedule leads into our annual Winter Concert where students in all programs perform for a community-filled audience before the Christmas holiday.

After the performance, we recruit again for our intermediate and symphonic orchestra during the month of January. This leads into our annual Midwest Youth Solo Festival in March. A solo contest where students challenge themselves and perform in front of classmates and a judge provides a full solo experience for all. As we serve home school students, they are well served to participate as ISSMA is not an option for them. Students who score high enough receive a medal based on their performance. Finally after all these events, students end the year with our annual culminating Spring Concert in May.

In the middle and throughout the school year, several parent meetings, teacher meetings to plan program content and evaluation as well as future programming occur to best meet the needs of all those involved.

Finally, students may be invited to perform (at the discretion of our directors) for our fundraisers which include our Annual Spring BEElieve in BBB4E Tea and our first performance gala, BBB Going Platinum, September 12, 2020 which will celebrate our 20th year.

Sponsors/charities/volunteers/ other groups involved in the project and the benefits to each.

This program is a collaborative effort between the Director, Rovelli Grib, Parents, Students, and by BBB4E Staff. The organization is grateful to the School City of Hammond/ The Hammond Academy for the Performing Arts for their rehearsal and performance spaces.
Benefits to the Midwest Youth Orchestra is that students receive instruction in designated classrooms set up for music instruction. The School System can offer music classes of excellent quality by providing space at no financial cost to the district .

All of our donors both private contributors and corporate sponsors have the opportunity to contribute to the educational experiences beyond the everyday classrooms of students over all large geographic area.

Community Impact

We are one of the few easily accessible educational and performance based Orchestral programs in the area. We are the only organization that provides a rolling program with instruction from beginner and beyond. We offer group-based instruction to launch beginners and start their education for stringed instruments.

We have also caught the attention of the school district and have been able to partner with the School City of Hammond to continue developing our Symphonic Orchestra. More students from the School City of Hammond are always welcome to participate as the partnership continues to deepen.

The municipal funding we receive from the City of Hammond provides even more visibility to city planners and organizers as to the performance groups we have available for events beyond the BBB4E calendar.

Recently, we asked Marissa McDermott, the first female elected Lake County Circuit Court judge to be the keynote speaker at our 16th Annual Spring Concert, May 16, 2019. She shared her story about her experience as a student violinist and how it impacted her life. We felt this was fitting as we launched the first public performance of the Midwest Youth Symphony Orchestra at this concert. As a Polish orphan adopted by a New York family, her history gave the audience insight about how important the idea of nature and nurture is when raising a child. Marissa’s determination and willingness to play the violin and the sacrifice made by her parents left many people moved and inspired. As an accomplished attorney, elected judge and successful mother, her story was more meaningful to hear with the onset of this performing group that night instead of just a speaker who told her story withut a direct application.

This influx of students has also increased our organizations total number of students past 100 enrolled which is a new milestone for our organization.

Specific Budget Breakdown

please see the attached document

New or recurring project?


How did you update/change this project from its previous occurrence?

The major changes that we have focused on was receiving our instructor Rovelli Grib and the creation of the Midwest Youth Symphonic Orchestra. Rovelli has provided a continual devotion and push to grow not only our class size, but the programs we provide as well.

Rovelli Grib, in conjunction with our Band Director, David Allie, have worked to create the Midwest Youth Symphonic Orchestra. This program was created due to a resounding desire for challenge in the students and more higher level programming for them to strive for. Students before this had only two levels of instruction, but now can also strive to improve their skill and audition as they would for a larger performance group. This experience is giving them the learning opportunity of the audition process in which they can apply it to other opportunities.

Challenges/obstacles that were encountered

Challenges include:

Instruments needed for the class.

We purchased some instruments and by charging an instrument rental fee we have been able to own the instruments outright. We have also been able to maintain our inventory and in addition families are paying less to rent from us especially since so many can hardly afford the experience to begin with. Lastly because we serve a transient population, some students may or may not continue due to their family moving too far away from this area to participate.

Locating an educator that would develop the program.

At the start of the program we had an educator that was a performer for the symphony and a volunteer that would work with our students. Their work was greatly appreciated and we are extremely thankful for their help in bringing about the beginning of this program. After our second year we decided that we needed to find a director that would not only continue the program, but look to develop it further. Locating an educator of this caliber was difficult as there are very few stringed instrument educators in the area. Thankfully after working with contacts through the school system and rigorous searching we found our current director, Rovelli Grib, who came to work with us in the last school year.

Marketing this program to a demographic where there has been an absence of orchestral programs for over 50 years and a strong focus of sports and athletics city wide.

Our means of working through this was to focus on marketing in different ways. One of our primary marketing techniques was to get into the local school system and utilize their automated calling system that went to all families in both English and Spanish. Other means of marketing ourselves was to go to school events, community events, and other areas and to bring free books from our Book Brigade with information packets. This not only promoted literacy, but provided a unique physical reminder. Lastly in an athletics dominated environment with a recently built athletics/community center complex, baseball and soccer fields created over the last decade or so, and a community focused on the growth of sports we concentrated on providing statistics of how learning an instrument can positively affect the growth of a student and that there is no limit to the number of performers on a stage like their is a sporting field or court.

Measurement of the success/effectiveness of this project?

Students in all levels of the Midwest Youth Orchestra and the Symphonic Orchestra demonstrated a substantial change in performance, tone, and quality of music that they performed at the final concert. Students in all levels were able to perform more challenging music such as Orpheus In The Underworld by Jacques Offenbach, a variation of Ode to Joy by Ludwig van Beethoven, Royal Promenade by Don Brubaker, Finlandia by Jean Sibelius, and New World Symphony by Antonin Dvorak.

With their final performance, there was a substantial growth in the community presence with the size of our audience increasing a total of at least 55%.

Our total number of students participating in the Midwest Youth Orchestra has doubled in the last academic year.

Select students from the Orchestra were chosen to perform solos for the 4th Annual Spring Tea Fundraiser in which an audience of 80 community members were able to witness individual student growth and the level of musicianship.

Advice for someone looking to replicate this project in their own community?

Focus on the following things:

  1. Make sure the program is tuition-based, having an investment in the program financially will drive the families to see it through to the end.
  2. Find a director that will grow the program and develop new aspects or is actively searching to improve it. If the director has passion in their work that will show through to the kids and they will strive to improve for their director and themselves.
  3. Starting out the program can be tough, but keep working hard to make it a reality, always keep an eye out for a way to improve and keep a positive attitude.
  4. Work with your school system and try to build a partnership to help grow. The larger the student base you can communicate to the better the opportunity you have at making this program a reality.
  5. Fundraisers are your friend and implement them wisely and widely.

Supporting Materials

Two different recruiting videos for incoming freshmen and parents

This is a video to Glasser Bow company, who is also a donor of bows cardboard shipping boxes for the project.

This was a successful cold outreach to the president of Vandercook College of Music. Conversations continue. We did have several friends in common.

This is an instructional video showing shop interns how to create outreach videos using Adobe Spark.

Here is a National Honor Society endorsement I did which explains how older shop interns teach the younger ones.

Web Pages photos/text

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