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Kidznotes changes lives through ever-expanding participation in youth orchestras, bands, and choirs.

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, fully integrated, out-of-school musical program that includes instrumental instruction, choir, music theory, general music, orchestra, and band.

Our classes are taught by Teaching Artists (TAs), professional musicians, and music teachers who are committed to teaching young students. The program operates 10 hours per week, 40 weeks a year, and in a 3-4 week Summer Camp.

Our 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. Like El Sistema, the teaching approach of Kidznotes is that everyone can learn music, and that love of the children comes first, the music second. To instill self-esteem in the children, teachers emphasize the value of each child.

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 10 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

These initial findings are based on early data. An immediate next step is to replicate data collection during the 2013-14 school year in Durham and to add data from new students in Wake County, expanding the sample size used in future analyses.

Partner Schools

Durham Partner Schools

  • The Holton Career and Resource Center (Durham Nucleo)
  • E.K. Powe Elementary
  • Sandy Ridge Elementary
  • Maureen Joy Charter School
  • Eastway Elementary
  • Y.E. Smith Elementary

Raleigh Partner Schools

  • East Garner Elementary (Raleigh Nucleo)
  • Walnut Creek Elementary
  • Poe Elementary
  • Bugg Elementary
  • Pave Academy

Our students are split into four ensembles: Mozarts (beginning level I), Haydns (beginning level II), Vivaldi Symphonic Orchestra (intermediate) and All-Stars Ambassadors (advanced). Kidznotes students take part in whole ensemble work within their age group, as well as small ensembles such as the Jazz Band, String Quartet, String Orchestra, and Bucket Band.

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.

Program Components

Instructional sessions: To fully engage students in the program, classical, orchestral training sessions are held for 10 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?

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.

As a targeted initiative in changing the face of poverty in Durham and in Raleigh, all enrolled Kidznotes students qualify for free and reduced lunch. 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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