When Julia Garcia’s daughter, Genesis, joined the Young Musicians program, it was at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020. In just one year, the Maria Moreno elementary school student expressed interest in pursuing a future in music.
“Joining the program at this time was the biggest blessing for her since she has since developed a greater sense of confidence when completing tasks and has started taking initiative in building friendships, which is special to me since she has always been very timid,” Garcia told Dallas Express.
In addition to participating more in school, Genesis is more confident when approaching her teachers with questions and concerns, according to Garcia.
“The program is a phenomenal opportunity for children to develop their abilities at a much younger age within this beautiful art form,” she said.
Garcia’s daughter is among some 500 students in Southern Dallas who are participating in Kim Noltemy Young Musicians. This program is a faction of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Southern Dallas Residency program that started in 2019.
“We started at elementary schools and, this fall, we expanded to our first secondary school,” said Jennifer Guzman, Thomas and Roberta Corbett Director of Education at Dallas Symphony Orchestra. “Our goal is to grow our program as our students grow so that we can keep them in Young Musicians until they graduate high school.”
Currently, students in 1st through 8th grade are provided with free instruments and music lessons. They are allowed to select their instrument and receive instruction in percussion and drum circle, music theory, and chorus.
“At the Dallas Symphony, we believe that music has the power to change lives and that everyone deserves equitable access to such opportunities,” Guzman told Dallas Express.
The musical instruments students can choose from include violin, viola, cello, bass, flute, clarinet, oboe, French horn, trumpet, trombone, percussion, and recorder for some beginners.
“We have students assigned on instruments that create a balanced orchestra with mostly strings, fewer woodwinds, brass, and percussionists,” Guzman said in an interview. “Violin and percussion are very popular.”
Jolyn Lopez’s children, Liliana and Luciano, chose the trumpet and bass, respectively.
“The double bass has transformed Luciano into a thoughtful and compassionate young man,” Lopez told Dallas Express. “Through the Young Musicians program, my children formed cherished relationships with life-long mentors. Without this program, my children would not have been exposed to orchestra instruments or received such high caliber instruction.”
The broad-based initiative is inspired by the El Sistema program, which uses music to further social equity and nurture the child and their entire community.
“Learning an instrument gives students an experiential learning experience that helps develop many soft skills such as cooperation, diligence, and empathy, along with gaining a deeper understanding of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) topics like playing different rhythms, creating various pitches on an instrument, and learning to play in tune,” Guzman said.
El Sistema is a philosophy and education system from Venezuela that aims to develop the whole child and use music to influence radical social change.
“Our hope is that all of our students can feel their own worthiness, capability, and uniqueness by learning to play an instrument and being mentored by our incredible teaching artists,” Guzman said.
After Hildelisa Ontiveros’ son, Ian, chose to learn the cello, she noticed that he has become more creative. According to Ontiveros, her son, who attends Trinity Basin Preparatory, has begun making his own musical instruments from recyclable materials, according to Ontiveros.
“The program has helped my son become much more responsible, practiced daily by the caring and maintaining of his instrument while also boosting his interest in classical music and expanding his creativity,” she said. “The Young Musicians not only encourages creativity but also allows children to spend their time in a very wise, healthy, and innovative way.”
While the Dallas Symphony provides full funding for Young Musicians, they appreciate the donation of any musical instrument in playing condition.
“We believe our students have a right and the ability to develop as an artist and empathic member of their community,” Guzman said. “While most academic topics engage factual and logical right-brain thinking, the arts activate the creativity and intuition of left-brain thinking.”
Young Musicians classes take place after school at five campuses within Dallas Independent School District and Trinity Basin Preparatory.
“We selected campuses without band or orchestra programs because we wanted to bring music opportunities to those who might not have them,” Guzman added. “All of our schools are in underserved areas. The children may be the ones in our program, but we work with parents too to help them know how to support their child’s musical journey. When possible, we perform in the community.”