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Allston school students get free music lessons from BC student volunteers

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  November 22, 2013 11:52 AM

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(Caitlin Cunningham)

BC student Liz Wilson and Gardner student Roxnny Roche.

The following is a press release from Boston College:

Through the Boston College Music Outreach Program about 60 students at Gardner Pilot Academy of Allston and Brighton High School receive free weekly lessons from Boston College undergraduates on voice and instruments such as guitar, violin, piano, trumpet, clarinet, saxophone, flute and recorder.

Directed by Boston College music department lecturer Barbara Gawlick and her husband, Assistant Professor of Music Ralf Yusuf Gawlick, the Boston College Music Outreach Program coordinates some 15 BC student volunteers who spend at least one to two hours a week working with the schoolchildren individually or in small groups.

Organizers say the music sessions aren’t intended to groom kids for the conservatory, or even for a spot in a school band, but to give the children and teens a sense of what it’s like to have music as part of their lives — not as a source of entertainment but as a skill or talent they can develop, or simply enjoy for its own sake.

“The benefits children get through exposure to, and involvement in, the arts are very well-known,” said Ralf Gawlick. “These kids get a taste of music education, and in the bargain, can engage with a caring young adult who is really invested in sharing the gift of music.”

Added Barbara Gawlick: “The BC students have devoted years of study to develop their musical skills, and now they have the opportunity to serve our neighboring youth through music.”

Felix Santiago, a 10th-grader at Brighton High, was so enthused by the guitar lessons he took from sophomore Amanda Adams last year that he signed up for piano as well as guitar for this year. “Amanda could really sing,” he said. “She taught us and made it easy to remember. She taught us the strings and different notes and chords. I learned it superfast.”

The parents of Sebastian Sanchez, a Gardner sixth-grader, are pleased with their son’s progress in Music Outreach. “It really helped him in a different way to have that experience of trumpet. He discovered that he liked other instruments as well and was able to start to play guitar.”

Moreover, while the weekly face-to-face time may not seem like a lot, organizers and volunteers say it has a cumulative effect, creating a bond between the children and the BC students.

Josie Bearden, a BC sophomore, cultivated a mutually rewarding relationship with Gardner student Genesis last year, when she taught the girl to play clarinet — not the easiest instrument to get the hang of, she notes. But Genesis made steady progress, especially after she was able to take the clarinet home to practice, something she did with great zeal, according to Bearden.

“I really felt that she just put all her energy into it. She’s so focused, and she would sit there for an hour absolutely fixated on the clarinet. When I spoke with Genesis’ parents, they were very excited about how well she was doing, and how much work she was putting in at home.”

Bearden wound up loaning her clarinet to Genesis for the summer, and received a big hug from the sixth-grader at this year’s orientation session for the outreach program.

“I love working with the kids,” said Bearden. “It’s wonderful to see the impact music can have.”

Ari Fleisher, director of after school and summer enrichment programs at Gardner, points out that music education can have a long-term impact on a child beyond the ability to play a I-IV-V guitar chord sequence or a Beethoven piano piece. “Think about the dedication and commitment that goes into playing music, and the bravery it takes to stand up and perform at a recital. Employers talk about looking for qualities like confidence, competence and leadership skills – music can be an enormous help in developing these.”

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