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What Does It Mean To Be a Catalyst for Social Change?

Kidznotes is a music for social change program based on the El Sistema model of youth orchestras, which started in Venezuela and has now spread worldwide.

Kidznotes engages students pre-K through 12th grade in an intense out-of-school musical program that includes instrumental instruction, choir, music theory, general music, orchestra, and band.

Our classes are taught by Teaching Artists who are committed to teaching young students. The program operates 12 hours per week, and 30+ weeks a year, with intensives throughout the summer.

Kidznotes’ Vision

Our vision is to be a catalyst for change that uses music to build a thriving network of children, families and partners in which the passion for music unleashes the human potential to transform lives and communities. The foundation of our vision is our commitment to embrace and value diversity, excellence and collaboration in our daily lives.

Program Overview

Our students are split into four ensembles: Mozarts (beginning level I), Haydns (beginning level II), Coplands (intermediate level I), Vivaldis (intermediate level II) and Abreus (advanced). All instruction takes place in group settings, including instrumental ensembles (band and orchestra), vocal ensembles, and instrument-specific group classes.

Program Objectives

  • To encourage children’s participation in music training and to improve their musical performance abilities.
  • To foster the development of children’s social behavior and values which contribute to success at school and in society.
  • To support the development of children’s school readiness and academic achievement.
  • To encourage children’s positive decision-making.
  • To promote parents’ engagement in program and community activities.

The Mozart Program

The Mozart Program is the point of entry for students in the Kidznotes program. The Mozart program is only open to students in Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade. Mozart classes are co-taught in a group setting by a district general music teacher (you!) and a Kidznotes applied strings instructor. Students learn the basic elements of general music, are introduced to violin technique, and develop the foundation for their future musical education. 

Kidznotes provides the 90-minute class curriculum, which includes 45 minutes for general music and 45 minutes for applied music (strings). Classes are held twice weekly after school, and snacks are provided for all students. Co-teachers collaborate on a regular basis to confirm each week’s lesson plans, and work together to share a performance at the end of each semester for parents, families and the Kidznotes community.

Program Components

Instructional sessions: To fully engage students in the program, classical, orchestral training sessions are held for 8 hours weekly by instructors trained in the El Sistema methodology and approach:

  • Informal and formal performances: To encourage our students to become comfortable in front of audiences and to build group solidarity, they give frequent performances throughout the year in small ensembles and larger groups: informally, for each other, for parents, for visitors, and formally, for scheduled audiences in the community and beyond.
  • Field trips, visits by performing artists, other music-related activities: To foster our student’s awareness and appreciation of the larger arts community and its possibilities, and to foster pride in their own accomplishments, Kidznotes students and their families are taken on field trips to concerts (symphony, chamber music, festivals, schools). In addition, in partnership with our community partners, Kidznotes students and families will have the opportunity to take part in workshops, master classes, and demonstrations by our guest performing artists.
  • Parent outreach: To engage parents and other family members in the Kidznotes program and in the goal of building community, Kidznotes families are invited to attend sessions and performances, accompany children on field trips, meet with program staff, and even volunteer in the program.Why East Durham and Southeast Raleigh?

Why Music?

Studies repeatedly find that music training is positively associated with more complex brain development, higher school achievement (e.g., math, reading, SAT scores, graduation rates, etc.) and a host of other gauges of long-term social, economic and emotional well-being. Research also suggests that the earlier the introduction to music, the greater the impact or benefit. Kidznotes will serve students K-12, utilizing community-based facilities to provide 8 hours of intensive instruction a week to children in years crucial to their brain and behavioral development.

Furthermore, the opportunity for educational enrichment in a safe and nurturing environment promises greater readiness for school among young children in low-income communities. Music is one way to counter some of the disadvantages that accrue due to a lack of economic advantage, helping develop a sense of community and empowerment. For instance, frequent performances of small ensembles and combined orchestral groups help develop pride and self-confidence in our students.

Through independent evaluation, it’s been determined that Kidznotes students are demonstrating positive development across a variety of indicators, including musical proficiency, academic performance and personal/social growth. In qualifying Kidznotes’ impact on school success when compared to their peers, data indicates that students participating in Kidznotes:

  • Attend school more often;
  • Start from behind in terms of school-readiness for the 3rd or 4th grade; however, after 1-2 years of Kidznotes, score at or on-par when compared to state mean scores on end of grade tests for their schools and grades;
  • Are more frequently identified as “A” or “B” students in the classroom;
  • Are more willing to ask for help when they need it;
  • Are more frequently identified as having self-determination and persistence

Why East Durham and Southeast Raleigh?

Durham and Southeast Raleigh confront the unfortunate, poverty-based reality of neighborhoods in which children’s futures are tragically compromised even before they arrive at the schoolhouse door. As extensive research has shown, children from low-income communities often lack the basic social, emotional and intellectual skills to start kindergarten on an equal footing with their more affluent peers. By the third grade, so many have been unable to master basic reading and math skills that their fortunes seem predetermined.

Through immersion in ensembles and orchestras, children develop the SEARCH Institute’s identified social skills that are critical for success in school and adulthood, including accountability, mutual respect, teamwork, intrinsic motivation, critical listening, discipline, focus and attention. By fostering these skills, Kidznotes creates a caring school climate and neighborhood by inviting children to serve others while setting high expectations and engaging creative activities with a sense of purpose.

Kidznotes partners with 11 Title -1 elementary schools where the racial composition of students is approximately 50.67% African American, 34.74% Hispanic and 14.59% Other—representing a diversity not traditional to classical music and orchestras.

Kidznotes (and its El Sistema model) emphasizes early-childhood intervention, consistent and continuing services through a conveyor belt of programs for every child and intensity of engagement for the child and family. As we grow, Kidznotes is committed to serving Durham and Raleigh’s students from pre-kindergarten through high-school.

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