The Musical String Ensemble, or Mu.S.E., is a gratis program where high school students gather every Friday to teach low – income children the violin, viola, cello, and music theory. We have our chamber group act as teacher’s assistants for the entry-level groups, and when they are comfortable with teaching independently, we pass this role on. The goal of this project is to form a community revolving around the idea of giving back. So once high school students graduate, we have our teacher’s assistants and/or former students fill in their footsteps, as a “payment” for the free lessons they received.
This program is targeted for all those interested in learning music, specifically violin, viola, or cello, who cannot afford professional lessons. Much of the city of San Marcos is inhibited by Mexicans, Latinos, and Hispanics. For example, the elementary and middle school I attended was predominately Mexican, specifically 95%.
Overview of planning and execution process for this project
This project is only happening during Summer sessions at the moment, as it is difficult for some children to rent their instruments for more than two or three months a year. We are trying to raise money to help this program last longer than a couple of months in a year, as many students are interested in continuing for a longer period of time. We will be performing at our local Brookdale retirement home in August, and have been asked to play on the Friday before Christmas.
Sponsors/charities/volunteers/ other groups involved in the project and the benefits to each.
Walt Disney and Youth Serving America had a grant of $500, which has sustained the program and those who absolutely could not even afford the few months of rent of instruments.
This program has recruited many children, and although it is just these children, I feel that at least I am planting the idea of giving back. Every time there are here, all the minutes they spend are with people who are giving back, or alongside others who are being taught the same thing.
Specific Budget Breakdown
- $25/Violin/1 month
- $40/Viola/1 month
6 month rentals of Violin, Cello, Viola
- $125/Violin (x10)
- $175/Cello (x1)
- $160/Viola (x2)
- $20 / Rasin
- $12.49 / Music Stand (x10)
- $100 / Music Subscriptions
- $1000 = Liability (for instruments)
New or recurring project?Recurring
How did you update/change this project from its previous occurrence?
This year, I added more events to perform, like Brookdale Retirement Homes, and so on.
Challenges/obstacles that were encountered
At first, it was difficult to recruit people, and hearing that we didn’t provide instruments turned many people away. We pulled cousins and friends of cousins, anyone who was willing to join. After building a good reputation, our organization spread by word of mouth, which helped more people. We had meetings every week, pulling in parents to hear their suggestions, reached out to the band directors of our high school, got in touch with the local community college’s orchestra director, met with countless people to brainstorm and craft every part of this curriculum.
Measurement of the success/effectiveness of this project?
We were performing at the back of the Civic Center on a practice stage for our most recent recital, and some bystanders came to listen to our groups. It was there, they asked us to perform at the Brookdale Retirement Home. To this degree, I feel our presence is becoming a bit stronger, though weak, it is something.
Advice for someone looking to replicate this project in their own community?
It is going to be incredibly difficult at first, especially planning the curriculums, where to meet, finding people that would be willing to donate their time consistently, etc. There are so many details to plan and things to account for, but you can do it. I strongly advise you seek out your music director in your school district or someone with experience in teaching music, as I am sure they can offer you a curriculum or guide your with some outline. This is no easy task, but you are doing an amazing thing.
I would strongly advise doing group activities and outside of the groups, to create solo and ensemble opportunities to the children. It is more work, but that means more experience for the children. Also, reach out to retirement homes, malls, your civic center, library, as these are all opportunities to display your group and perhaps even recruit more people.
You are essentially building a classroom, so think about what a classroom has, and build off of that (rules, structure, etc.).
I believe in you. You can do this.