Getting Children Off the Streets and into Practice Rooms

I read with horror the account of a young college student in a small Oklahoma town who lost his life because three adolescents were “bored and didn’t have anything to do, so we decided to kill somebody.”

Does our society value our children so little that we simply turn them loose for the summer and allow them to wander aimlessly, looking for ways to occupy themselves?

One musician/educator, Stanford Thompson, asked himself that very question one day, after driving past street corners filled with kids wasting time.  So many of my musician friends are not only teaching in high schools, colleges, academies, and conservatories, they also spend valuable time offering free performances for young and old alike at libraries, in schools, and at museums.

Stanford Thompson, as are many musicians, is passionate about using music for social action.  He serves as the CEO for the El Sistema-inspired program, Play On, Philly!, a program inspired by a video of the founder of Venezuela’s El Sistema program, Dr. Jose Antonio Abreu, accepting the 2009 TED Prize.  He demonstrated the role classical music could play in a child’s life, no better illustrated than in the life of Gustavo Dudamel and the musicians who, over the years, have been part of that program.  Just as Dudamel was instrumental in establishing El Sistema in LA, Thompson spearheaded the establishment of this similar program in Philadelphia.

As we watch youngsters heading back to school, a number of whom are toting instruments, I hope each of us can play a small role in putting an instrument into a child’s hands.  Classical music can change lives.  Who knows…it might even save one.

Read The Symphony Orchestra’s Gold Mine, Pt. 1 (ArtsJournal.com)

Watch Stanford Thompson with the Rittenhouse Jazz Quintet

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