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Volume 26, Number 6 — June 2019

Symphony Partners with YWCA for Free Music Lessons

 Cornelia Kodkani-Laemmli and the Tech-Gyrls of the Bristol YWCA.
Cornelia Kodkani-Laemmli and the Tech-Gyrls of the Bristol YWCA.
Additional photos below »

December 21, 2008

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Symphony of the Mountains is partnering with Bristol's YWCA to offer free group music lessons to girls participating in the YWCA after-school program.

Students learn fundamentals of music; melody, harmony, structure and are taught a simple song that they perform as a Recorder Choir. The Recorder tone is very clear and sweet, making it a highly appealing instrument for beginning music students.

The YWCA Tech GYRLS are 4th-9th graders in an after-school program designed to mentor them during the transitional years between elementary to middle school and middle school to high school.

"We hope to encourage these young ladies to pursue unique extracurricular activities during their adolescence. Self esteem, discipline, and responsibility are integral to their development and we are committed to our mission to provide that to them", says Kathy Waugh, Bristol YWCA Executive Director.

John Bursey, Symphony of the Mountains Principal Violist, serves as project coordinator for the pilot program. Bursey says, "This is a project that goes to my heart. To spend time with the girls over an entire semester and watch their musical, academic and personal transformation is as rewarding as work can possibly be."

Volunteer musicians and college music students from UVA- Wise, King College and Milligan College teach the weekly lessons to the girls. Each girl received a brightly colored recorder for use during class as well as one to keep at home for daily practice.

In the early classes students were introduced to the objectives of the project: to learn rudiments of music, such as melody, harmony and rhythm, how to read music, how to play the recorder and learn music history. They have learned to play several well-known songs such as "Mary Had a Little Lamb," "Hot Cross Buns" and "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." The girls will showcase their new skills in a public recital in April 2009.

Symphony of the Mountains Executive Director M. Zane Myers, himself a Juilliard-trained musician, recently attended one of the recorder classes to observe their progress. Myers noted, "This kind of program is absolutely critical to the region as further budget cuts are implemented in the public school system. The truth is that music education, particularly private instruction, is quite simply out of reach for some families. Our job is to make sure that no child, no matter their personal circumstances, misses the joy of making music."

Symphony of the Mountains Conductor Cornelia Kodkani-Laemmli observed, "The level of concentration as the girls learned their music and the joyful expression of satisfaction when they perfected the pieces was amazing. It fills your heart with joy! Music literally has the power to transform lives."

Tammy Henkel, Director of Operations, YWCA Bristol, said, "The Symphony of the Mountains music lessons contributed to the YWCA Tech GYRLS is a priceless opportunity. Most of these girls, who are referred by their school counselors, are not exposed to this genre of music. To receive lessons such as these will expand their creativity and desire to connect with music in a very different way than they could ever imagine. We are sincerely grateful for this chance to partner with the Symphony of the Mountains to expand the programs we can provide to the girls while they are here. Symphony of the Mountains has also provided tickets to their performances for the girls as well as their families to understand the concert atmosphere and what opportunities are available to them through these lessons.

Music Education is a critical component of the services that Symphony of the Mountains offers to Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. The scope of services includes the 65-member Youth Orchestra, the only symphonic youth orchestra between Knoxville and Roanoke; the 25-member Youth String Ensemble, a training ensemble for aspiring Youth Orchestra members; an annual Family Concert that includes pre-concert instrument building from everyday objects and post-concert Instrument Petting Zoo with the Orchestra's professional musicians, and Musicians in the Schools and Communities Program which offers free outreach visits to school classrooms and community agencies by professional musicians.

At the heart of Symphony of the Mountains' educational mission is the belief that learning to play an instrument is so much more than performing. It teaches mental and physical coordination, builds poise and confidence, improves social skills, puts us in touch with our own creativity, helps us to express our emotions, teaches us to work together, and touches the public's life in a profound and transformative way. It is an invaluable and life changing experience.

A student practices her recorder.

Kodkani-Laemmli demonstrates the recorder to YWCA Tech GYRLS Recorder Choir.

Project Coordinator John Bursey is Principal Violist with Symphony of the Mountains.