A girl in the back row of the string ensemble quietly raised her hand on Feb. 11 and asked for help tuning her violin.
To help her, Adam Barth, a senior music education major and an intern at Temple Music Preparatory Division, walked past students ages 6 through 13 holding violins, violas and cellos with their folders open to “When The Saints Go Marching In.” He was filling in for the ensemble’s usual conductor.
This ensemble is part of the Philadelphia String Project, a program in the Music Prep Division. The program, in the Boyer College of Music and Dance, offers music instruction to students from preschool through high school in Philadelphia, including music theory lessons, individual instrumental lessons and string, wind, brass and jazz ensembles.
Temple Music Prep is a member organization of the Philadelphia Music Alliance for Youth, a collective of 15 music education groups in the Philadelphia area that was established in 2012.
In early February, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, an organization that funds the arts and humanities, awarded a $2.53 million grant to PMAY to increase access to affordable classical music education in Philadelphia.
Mark Huxsoll, the executive director of Music Prep, said the program now serves between 230 and 250 students every week from about 90 different schools in the city.
“It brings kids from all across the city together who otherwise might not have the access to instruction, but can get that on the Temple campus,” he said.
“The Mellon funding that will come to us, our share of that, will help us create scholarships for some of these students,” Huxsoll said. “After a point, there needs to be a certain amount of input from higher-level faculty and involvement in programs that maybe they couldn’t afford previously and we couldn’t afford to place them in without this kind of grant.”
The program funded by the Mellon grant, called the PMAY Artists’ Initiative, aims to recruit about 75 new music students by Summer 2017.
Melissa Douglas, the coordinator of Music Prep’s Community Music Scholars Program, said about two-thirds of the program’s faculty members are graduate students. Working for the program provides them with educational experience and allows them to see the musical growth and development of the children they instruct, she added.
“The thing I notice is that as more time goes on, the more pride and ownership the kids take over their ensemble and their sound,” Barth said. “That’s been really fun to watch.”
Carol Williams’ granddaughter is a student at James R. Ludlow School, a public school in North Philadelphia, and has been playing the cello for four years. She is also part of a string ensemble at Music Prep. Williams, the principal of the Ludlow School, said the program “really helped build [her granddaughter’s] love for the instrument and her eagerness to participate.”
“Like the quote from Dr. Conwell, the founder of Temple, ‘You’ve got to look for the acres of diamonds in your own backyard,’” Huxsoll said. “And that’s what we think we’re doing, that all of these children are Dr. Conwell’s diamonds that we’re gathering from our own backyard and taking care of them at Temple.”
Marissa Howe can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @marissahowe24.