A noteworthy program
Rochester music students benefit from nonprofit program
By Heather J. Carlson
It is recess time at Bamber Valley Elementary School, but 11-year-old Doris Conde is not out playing with her fellow students.
Instead, the fifth-grader sits at a worn, wooden piano in the teachers’ work room. Teachers file in and out, making copies and opening cabinets. Doris doesn’t seem to mind. She is focused on the music.
"I like these songs. This is fun — really fun," Doris says.
She is one of two students at the elementary school picked to be part of the MusicLink Foundation. The national nonprofit links music teachers with promising students who have a demonstrated financial need. The weekly lessons are free or at a reduced cost.
Bamber Valley Principal Becky Gerdes said since the school started participating in the program last year, she has seen students flourish.
"They get so excited about coming and learning, and they are just thriving," she said. "They are able to really have a strong music background that they probably would not have gotten it if it wasn’t for that opportunity."
A total of 216 students statewide are involved in the program, with 73 music teachers volunteering their time, said Sue Wege, state coordinator for the MusicLink Foundation. In Rochester, there are nine students and five music teachers.
Wege said students are nominated for the program by music teachers from schools, churches or community centers. Lessons can be for any type of instrument or for voice. Selected students generally qualify for free- or reduced-price lunches and have a supportive guardian. The foundation also works with local businesses to provide students with needed musical equipment so they can practice at home. Sometimes, the foundation is able to give dedicated students a piano to keep, if they promise to stay with the program for four years.
Since the foundation started in 1992, several former students have gone on to pursue music as a career, Wege said.
"Some of the beginning ones have graduated from college and are teaching now. They’re even taking on MusicLink students of their own," she said.
At Bamber Valley, students not only have weekly lessons with Rochester piano teacher Linda Seime, they also work with a parent volunteer, who can help them with their piano assignments.
Seime said she began working with Doris last year. Since then, she has seen tremendous improvement.
"I’ve really seen her blossom this year," she said.
As for Doris, she said her love of music continues to grow. She is now in honors choir and wants to be a singer — like Hannah Montana. While she loves playing the piano, Doris said her favorite part of her lesson is her teacher.
She added, "What I like most about playing the piano is having someone to work with me."
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MusicLink Foundation http://www.musiclinkfoundation.org/index.php4