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Who do we serve?

Kidznotes changes the life trajectories of underserved children through free orchestral music instruction.

Kidznotes is a 501(c)3 charitable organization.  We serve approximately 400 public school students in grades Pre-K – 12. We partner with eight Title I elementary schools (see list of Partner Schools below) in Raleigh and Durham. The racial composition of students in our partner schools 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 aiming to change the face of poverty in Durham and Raleigh, all enrolled Kidznotes students qualify for free and reduced lunch.

Durham and Southeast Raleigh, where our partner schools are located, confront the poverty-based reality of neighborhoods in which children’s futures are compromised even before they arrive at the schoolhouse door. As extensive research has shown, children from low-income communities often lack the social, emotional and intellectual skills necessary to start kindergarten on 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.

And yet, through immersion in ensembles and orchestras, children can develop the social skills identified by the SEARCH Institute as being critical for success in school and adulthood. These skills include accountability, mutual respect, teamwork, intrinsic motivation, critical listening, discipline, focus and attention. Kidznotes fosters these skills by setting high expectations for children while simultaneously inviting them to serve others and to participate in creative, meaningful activities.

Durham Partner Schools:  

Club Boulevard Elementary

Eastway Elementary

E.K. Powe Elementary

Maureen Joy Charter School

Y.E. Smith Elementary

Holton Career and Resource Center (Durham Nucleo)


Raleigh Partner Schools:

East Garner Elementary (Raleigh Nucleo)

Poe Elementary

Walnut Creek Elementary 

Bugg Elementary

PAVE SE Raleigh Charter School


What do we do?

Kidznotes students are separated into four ensembles:

  • Mozarts (Level I: Kindergarten – First Grade)
  • Haydns (Level II: First, Second, and Third Grade)
  • Copelands (Level III: Second, Third, and Fourth Grade)
  • Vivaldis (Level IV / Advanced: Fourth through Twelfth Grade)

Kidznotes has an intense instructional focus, with students receiving focused training in music theory, instrumental technique, and choir.  The aim is for children to make many years of growth in a short time. Thus, Kidznotes students adhere to the following schedule:

Mozarts rehearse 6 hours per week (two weekdays + Saturday).

Haydns, Copelands, and Vivaldis rehearse 10 hours per week (four weekdays + Saturday).

In addition to their age-group ensembles, Kidznotes students take part in small ensembles such as Jazz Band, String Quartet, String Orchestra, and Bucket Band.

Within each of these ensembles, Our El Sistema-trained instructors engage all students in the following program components:

  • 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, parents, and visitors, and formally, for scheduled audiences in the community and beyond).
  • Field trips, visits by performing artists, other music-related activities: To foster student awareness and appreciation of the larger arts community, and to foster pride in their own accomplishments, Kidznotes students and their families take field trips to concerts (symphony, chamber music, festivals, schools). In partnership with our community partners, Kidznotes students and families also 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 Music?

Studies repeatedly find that music training is positively associated with more complex brain development, higher school achievement (e.g., math, reading, SAT scores, and graduation rates) and several other social, economic and emotional advantages. Research also suggests that the earlier the introduction to music, the greater the benefit. Kidznotes serves children in the years most crucial to their brain and behavioral development.

The opportunity for educational enrichment in a safe and nurturing environment promises greater school readiness among children in low-income communities. Music is a powerful way to counter the disadvantages accrued due to a lack of economic advantage, helping to develop a sense of community and empowerment.

Through independent evaluation, it has been determined that Kidznotes students demonstrate 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, but score at or on-par with state mean scores after 1-2 years of Kidznotes.
  • 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.


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