Kidznotes’ mission is to change the life trajectory of underserved k–12 students through orchestral training. We strongly believe that access to this opportunity is critical to lifetime achievement and well-being, and our goal is to empower those who otherwise would not have access to high-level musical opportunities. Our innovative, scalable model is building a thriving network of children, families, and partners where passion, excellence, and collaboration in music unleash the human potential to transform lives and communities.
Kidznotes is inspired by the international program El Sistema, an evidence-based system of classical music for social change founded in Venezuela in 1975 by economist, composer, and conductor Jose Antonio Abreu. El Sistema offers free, government funded classical music training for young children from highly impoverished backgrounds. El Sistema and its worldwide replications focus on providing an environment of opportunity through the collective practice of orchestral playing and choral singing as a model for personal, social, academic, and musical development. Since its inception, El Sistema has transformed the lives of millions of children.
Kidznotes impacts populations in need by offering arts access and opportunities to children from the Triangle region’s most impoverished neighborhoods, with a particular emphasis on East Durham and Southeast Raleigh. Kidznotes directly invests in these communities by partnering with Title-1 public elementary schools at which at least 50% of the student population qualifies for free and reduced lunch. Overall, 77% of Kidznotes families qualify for government aid and/or free or reduced-price lunch, based on family size and income. In building a new pipeline of musical training that targets the effects of poverty and racial inequity, the students who participate in Kidznotes reflect the diversity of the communities that we serve—a diversity that continues to be absent in the landscape of many classical music programs. Our student body in Wake County is currently 56% female and 44% male, and the racial composition of our students is approximately 47% Black or African American, 37% Latino, 9% White/Other, and 6% two or more races. Our student body in Durham County is currently 54% female and 46% male, and the student racial composition is approximately 40% Black or African American, 43% Latino, 7% White/Other, and 10% two or more races.
In partnership with Durham Public Schools (DPS) and the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS), Kidznotes provides students with an orchestral instrument of their own and approximately 10 hours a week of intensive instruction in orchestra, choir, music theory, and band for 40 weeks of the school year at no cost to their families. Students participate in three after-school sessions per week, in addition to combined orchestra rehearsals each Saturday at the “núcleos” (“orchestra homes”) at East Garner Elementary School in Raleigh and the Holton Career and Resource Center in Durham. Intermediate and advanced Kidznotes students attend the núcleos four days a week for both after-school instruction and Saturday rehearsals. The núcleo also provides a meeting place where families connect, network, and share information about access to important community resources. It provides a forum for the Kidznotes Parent Advisory Council (KPAC), a body that meets regularly to offer critical insights into the decisions that guide our programming staff and faculty. In addition to weekly instruction during the school year, Kidznotes hosts Summer Camps in Durham and in Raleigh for total of approximately 500 hours of instruction for all Kidznotes students over the course of the year.
Kidznotes' philosophy is grounded in the premise that high-quality arts experiences go hand-in-hand with youth development. The process of learning and performing music helps our students express a wide range of emotions in a constructive way and offers a safe space within which they learn how to work through various issues and how to more deeply trust and empathize with others. We believe that the joy, pride, and accomplishment that are experienced by the young people who take part in our program will strengthen their sense of personal dignity, self-efficacy, and resiliency. By developing these traits, Kidznotes students will show improved persistence amid challenges, increased academic engagement, and improved academic performance. Our ensemble-based approach encourages students to build connections with their peers, parents, and teachers, thus fostering their sense of community and their engagement therein. By counteracting many of the adverse effects of growing up in poverty, Kidznotes students have the tools and confidence to bridge the gaps in social, emotional, and intellectual development that plague young children from low-income families.