Community Music School gives children professional lessons
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Music lessons are a rite of passage for many young people.
In addition to soccer, dancing, and other extracurricular activities, a weekly piano or guitar lesson can help students discern their depth of interest and potentially discover a burgeoning talent.
Children engaged in music at an early age also gain intellectual advantages. According to a 2018 research article published in Science Daily, music lessons improve children’s use of language-based reasoning, short-term memory, planning, and other cognitive abilities, leading often lead to better academic performance.
“There are a host of studies that reiterate the importance of the arts and arts education,” said Dennis De Jong, who in October was named principal of Raleigh’s Community Music School. “The study of music increases self-esteem, motivation, discipline, leadership – these are the kinds of consequences that come from learning music in a personalized and individual setting.”
The Community Music School was founded in 1994 by a group of volunteers, including the late Mary Cates, who believed strongly that “all children deserve applause,” De Jong explained.
Cates, a former Raleigh councilman and civic leader, died in March 2018, but her faith in providing access to music lessons for all children lives on. Each year, approximately 130 students receive affordable music lessons and instrument use through CMS.
“If your child qualifies for a free lunch, they can take music lessons for $1 a lesson,” said Inez Brewington, who has a grandson who goes through various programs at school and another graduate of the Community Music School and who is now in college.
Her youngest grandson, Caleb, started taking lessons at age 6 and is now in eighth grade at Ligon GT Magnet Middle School. Brewington said his piano and drum lessons improved his focus and gave Caleb more confidence.
“I started to see a positive difference in him when he started piano lessons,” Brewington said. “It was wonderful. I love school.”
The Community Music School hit a slump in 2016, when donations plummeted and the organization’s budget plummeted. Classes were suspended for several months while leaders reorganized and focused on fundraising. Reopened in 2017 with a budget of $300,000, the school has regained momentum and recently hired its first full-time principal, De Jong, a professional musician and music teacher.
“The board worked with a group of consultants to develop a strategic plan, and that included putting in a full-time director to give it full-time attention,” he said.
The Community Music School has brought music into the lives of over 2,000 students since its founding.
Students all receive personal instruction and have access to practice instruments for piano, voice, brass, woodwinds, strings, and percussion.
They can gain additional experience by participating in string ensembles, jazz bands, recording classes, and other music-related activities. The school recently partnered with Berklee College of Music’s City Music Network program, which offers online learning opportunities focused on the technical and business aspects of music, as well as composition.
“We really prepare students to be not only musicians but also advocates for the arts themselves,” De Jong said.
The key to the effectiveness of the program lies in the individual lessons given by professional musicians who pass on to their students their musical knowledge, their techniques and, of course, the good habits of practice.
“The core of what we provide is one-on-one instruction,” De Jong said. “Becoming a musician is really this private lesson, a personalized learning time allowing students to develop their skills.”
Students with special needs are welcome at CMS and sometimes seem to get the most out of their courses.
“A child can be an outlier in a class, but when we work with them individually it opens doors in a pretty powerful way,” said De Jong, who taught private trumpet lessons at school and performs. always locally and regionally.
“Basically, it’s about making something accessible; it goes to the heart of fairness. Really teach the whole child. There is a big push for personalized learning and adaptive teaching. We excel in providing these opportunities to students.
Community music school
618 Tucker St.
Raleigh, North Carolina 27603
Contact: Denis De Jong, 919-832-0900
Donations needed: Money.
$10 buy a set of strings for a violin.
$20 buy a piano instruction book.
$50 buy private lessons with a professional music teacher.
This story was originally published November 24, 2018 8:35 a.m.