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Band Together Partnership Inspires Kidznotes to Think Big

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KidzNotes band imageBy Jordan Smith

Two local nonprofits whose individual missions hold that music is a catalyst for greater social change will collaborate in a $1.5 million dollar fundraising concert in 2016. Kidznotes, a Raleigh-Durham based organization that uses music to empower disadvantaged children, has recently been selected as the Band Together 2016 partner. Band Together NC chooses a different nonprofit partner each year to stage a concert fundraiser for their chosen nonprofit.

Kidznotes, founded in 2009, was inspired by El Sistema, Venezuela’s National System of Children and Youth Orchestras that caters to over two million children around the world. Similarly, Kidznotes changes lives by providing orchestral training to underserved students in grades K-12 in eight Title I schools in the Raleigh-Durham area. Currently, they provide approximately 250-300 students with full scholarships. These scholarships include an instrument, 10 hours of music training a week plus lessons in music theory and literacy, and opportunities to perform in concerts.

Kathryn Wyatt, the founding Executive Director of Kidznotes, is excited about this new partnership; Band Together is encouraging Kidznotes to “think big” and reach for their dream. By the end of the 2016 Band Together partnership year, Kidznotes hopes to serve 600 kids, doubling the amount of students they currently serve. Their partnership expects to raise $1.5 million at their 2016 fundraiser. The proceeds will go towards Kidznotes’ goal of serving 1,000 students by 2020.

To reach their goal by 2020, Kidznotes has a strategic plan for the next three years: to increase the number of full-time and part-time staff, the number of instructors, the total number of sites, and the number of children they reach while decreasing the cost per child.

Their model for success is a collaborative one; Kidznotes works with the whole community to provide these opportunities—parents and friends of the students, volunteers and instructors of music, the participating public schools and neighboring Duke University, and community centers. It takes the whole community working ‘in concert,’ Kathryn Wyatt says, “to really build that village of success, self-determination, confidence, a desire to create something that’s beautiful—really building that community of effort in music and in leadership for kids”.

A large part of the work that Kidznotes has ahead of them is expanding their Raleigh Nucleo to match their Durham Nucleo, their base of operations. The Durham Nucleo is currently housed at the Holton Career and Resource Center where over 200 kids, from five Title I schools in Durham, are bused after school. They are working to establish a similarly strong community in Raleigh, at their Walnut Creek Elementary base, expanding upon the three Title I schools and 70 students they currently work with as well as developing a stronger tie with NC State University. In Durham, Kidznotes has a strong relationship with Duke University. Duke students have the opportunity to volunteer, gain teacher training hours, and experience working in the arts and social entrepreneurship fields. KidzNotes image

Kidznotes is successfully reaching their mission to empower children through music in more ways than one.  As students spend 500 hours each year in music instruction, the focus and determination necessary in playing a musical instrument translates to other areas of their lives. Research shows that Kidznotes students outperform their peers in reading and mathematics. In a 2013-2014 teacher survey, 74% of Kidznotes students were ‘A’ or ‘B’ students in reading compared to 64% of their peers and 82% of Kidznotes students were ‘A’ or ‘B’ students in mathematics compared to 65% of their peers.

One of their newer programs, Mathemusica, results in significantly higher levels of reading comprehension, mixing instruments with technology and math in 12 weekly sessions. This program is taught by violinist Nick Kitchen, a native of Durham, who currently lives in Boston working for the New England Conservatory.

2015 marks Kidznotes’ 5th birthday as well as the 40th anniversary of El Sistema. Kidznotes is celebrating big with their 5th Annual Kidznotes Benefit Concert to take place on Friday, April 17th at the Durham Convention Center. Also in the works is their Raleigh celebration, the Spring Concert on May 16th, location TBA.

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