11-year-old Kiarra looks up at her mother, Shamia.

“I don’t remember that,” she says. Shamia just smiles, tears welling in her eyes. “Well, I’ll never forget that day.”

That day was a few months back when Kiarra got the opportunity to play alongside the North Carolina Symphony. Shamia remembers one of the Symphony’s violinists looking over to Kiarra in mid song and mouthing, ‘You are so good!’

“I’m just so proud of her growth, just watching her evolve into the musician she is today,”  Shamia says.

Kiarra Kidznotes

But Kiarra’s growth almost never took root. After moving to Durham from Atlanta after the second grade, it didn’t seem like Kiarra would be able to continue learning the new hobby she had picked up in Atlanta — the violin.

She remembers a teacher asking all the kids in her class if anyone wanted to play an instrument.

“Naive me was like, yeah, sure. I want to play the flute,” Kiarra says. But when she showed up for the first lesson, she learned that the teacher had been referring to string instruments. Looking back on it now, Kiarra sees it as a perfect mistake.

Once in Durham, Shamia, a single mother of four, couldn’t afford violin lessons, but her brother told her about Kidznotes. Now, four years later, Kiarra is entering her fifth year, known as one of the program’s top violinists and violists.

“The violin and viola are in two different scales. I love switching my brain between the different instruments,” Kiarra explains. In addition to the five Kidznotes practices every week, Kiarra is also part of Kidznotes’ All-Star and Jazz bands, each of which practice one additional time per week.

“I like challenges. Sometimes notes are going to be fast and hard, but that’s going to be fun. And even if I get mad, it’ll still feel fun.” Kiarra says of continuing to learn more difficult pieces. And the challenges don’t just revolve around music. It’s Oxford or bust for Kiarra. But don’t worry, she’s given herself a couple of fallback schools just in case. Yale and NYU.

“I’m so thankful we were given this opportunity. Without it, our family wouldn’t be the same,” Shamia says. “The instructors are so in tune with the students. They don’t let anything slide. Kiarra’s even divulged things to them she hadn’t yet to me. They’re always there for her.”

In addition to Kiarra’s growth as a musician, her grades, especially her analytical math scores, have improved tremendously since joining Kidznotes. Always more of a language arts girl, this past year Kiarra earned A’s in both subjects and scored a perfect 5 on her math EOG.

The biggest challenge in Kiarra’s way right now is trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. With interests ranging from child psychology to dance, there’s one thing that remains constant — her passion for music.

“I might have a main job, but I’ll always compose music.”

(Picture by Ken Demery)