Two years ago, we reported on plans to launch after-school music education programs for low-income children in several Connecticut cities. The programs are inspired by El Sistema, a music phenomenon in Venezuela that’s touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of kids, and captured the attention of the world. WNPR’s Diane Orson now reports on Bravo Waterbury!, an initiative of the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra.
Now in its second year, Bravo Waterbury! serves children at two sites: Children’s Community School and Brass City Charter School. Each day, more than 170 kindergarten through fifth graders complete their academic classes, then walk upstairs for three hours of intensive after-school music education.
Program director Calida Jones said, "They do their choir rehearsals, they do group lessons with instrument specific teachers. We’re trying to prepare them for an orchestral setting. And they’re in the beginning stages of note reading as well."
Children work with string, brass, woodwind and percussion instructors. There’s also a popular class is called Bucket Band. Jones said, "It's meant to teach teamwork and team building skills."
Jones said teachers can already see the program’s positive outcomes. "It's not so much necessarily the musical outcome as it is the social outcome," she said, "the way they deal with conflict with one another; the way they deal with conflict with their teachers; their confidence in themselves to be able to do anything."
There is no cost to families. Bravo Waterbury! provides these low-income children with instruments, transportation to and from concerts, and food to eat. And that allows them to focus on one thing: making music together.