June 24, 2018

Youth Music Programs enhance Salt Lake City’s west side

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By Heidi Steed

Gifted Music School’s ‘Project Grit’ brings music and violin instruction to Mountain View Elementary

At Mountain View Elementary in the Glendale neighborhood, every week during the school year Kindergarten and first grade students get the opportunity to study music from a qualified music instructor. The structured, one-hour class is presented by the Gifted Music School’s Project GRIT, an outreach partnership with the Salt Lake City School District. The aim of the partnership is to identify and reach out to the most at-risk children in danger of not completing high school. Through consistent musical training, Gifted Music School hopes to provide students with pathways to success by using music as a way to increase literacy, improve self worth, develop social skills and improve academic achievement. The program is now in its third year and is already showing results, including lower numbers of absenteeism and decreased behavioral problems among its participants.

In addition to weekly music instruction for Kindergarten and first grade classes at Mountain View Elementary, Project GRIT also provides after school music fundamentals and violin instruction for second through fourth grade Mountain View students, and fifth through twelfth grade students are eligible for limited scholarships to continue study at the Gifted Music School’s downtown campus.

Youth Enrichment Foundation provides piano program in three Salt Lake City schools

The Youth Enrichment Foundation (YEF) has made it their goal to help children build self-esteem, experience success and achieve academically through music. The YEF program was created in 1994 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization by Bart & Liz Warner of the Warner Trucking Company. The program is currently funded 65% by the Warner family and 35% by the individual schools the program serves in the Salt Lake City School District, including Whittier Elementary, Glendale Middle and East High Schools. The foundation’s piano program gives students the opportunity to achieve success outside the general classroom by providing professional piano instruction and the opportunity to show off their hard work by performing for their local community. Students have high praise for the program says Bonny Wooten, Youth Enrichment Foundation Music Director. “Many [students] will state that this class is an encouraging, calming, supportive place in which they can be expressive,” she said. Students have said the class "saved my life," "allows me to be myself" and "gives me a place to make friends and feel supported by my teachers.”

U of U Piano Outreach Program brings piano instruction to Backman Elementary School

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When school budgets become tight, arts and music programs are often the first to be cut and Title I schools are often the most negatively impacted by the elimination of these programs. The University of Utah’s Piano Outreach Program recognized a need in the community and designed a program that would help ensure that students at Title I schools, like Backman Elementary, would have access to a high quality music education. This outreach opportunity pairs low-income elementary school students with University of Utah piano students in an after school music program designed to foster life-long musical skills and develop students’ self-confidence. The university students get the added benefit of learning to teach piano in a real world environment and can help share their love of music with a new generation of piano students. According to University Piano Outreach Program Coordinator Dr. Mio Cowden, the “goal of the program is to provide the opportunity for all children to experience music. It is our desire to bring back music to all of the Title 1 schools across Salt Lake County. This comes with a real commitment from the University of Utah, our gracious donors, and the leadership of the elementary schools. However, a commitment that is more than worth it when you see a smile come from those who play their first piece of music or perform in front of their friends and family for the first time. That is priceless.” 

Salty Cricket nonprofit provides music education at Mary Jackson Elementary

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By Charlotte Fife-Jepperson
Photos by Davey Davis

A nonprofit arts organization called Salty Cricket provides afterschool and summer music classes for students in Pre-K through 9th grade at Mary Jackson Elementary School in the Fairpark community. Every day, participating students receive small group instruction, music theory, and orchestra class. Currently, students may choose to learn violin, viola or cello.

Fairpark residents Nathaniel Eschler and Victoria Petro-Eschler run the music program. In 2008, the couple launched the nonprofit with a composers’ collective called “Salty Cricket.”  They added the El Sistema program, an international program that originated in Venezuela, at Mary Jackson in 2015.  “Jackson’s administration has been very supportive,” said Petro-Eschler.

If all goes well and they receive a capacity-building grant from El Sistema USA, they are planning to expand to Wallace Stegner Academy, a public charter school in the Glendale neighborhood. At this new location, in addition to strings, they would offer wind, brass and percussion instruction.

“We need movers and shakers on the west side to get involved and support [this expansion],” said Eschler.

There are currently two open spots in the El Sistema program at Mary Jackson. To inquire, visit www.saltycricket.org.

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