Since 2008, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) has operated an El Sistema-inspired in and after-school music education and mentorship program, delivered in partnership with Baltimore City Public Schools System (BCPSS). Designed to create social change for Baltimore City’s at-risk youth, OrchKids' mission is to:
- Use music as a vehicle to mentor, encourage, and provide children with the tools to become lifelong learners, expanding their creativity, self-expression, discipline and focus, cooperative learning, teamwork, academic success and self-esteem;
- Engage students in musical training at an early age through quality instruction, instruments and a full range of personal, nutritional, and family enrichment experiences;
- Shape the whole individual and mitigate the likelihood that youth will engage in negative behaviors such as gangs, drug youth, and chronic absenteeism;
- Develop neighborhood programs that create a sense of community pride through participation;
- Increase parental involvement in students’ lives to improve family stability and students’ chances for lifelong success; and
- Deepen the BSO’s reach into its own community through broadened partnerships with other local organizations and become a model for similar programs in other cities.
Under Baltimore Symphony Orchestra music director Marin Alsop’s artistic leadership and direction, OrchKids is the cornerstone of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s efforts to expand the orchestra’s relevance within the broad and diverse Baltimore community. Currently the program works with 5 public elementary schools in Baltimore City serving close to 750 children from pre-kindergarten through the 8th grade.
OrchKids has helped to revitalize the communities it serves in east and west Baltimore by renovating concert spaces at school locations; working with the Rebuilding through Art project to design and paint murals in and around the schools; and by providing safe locations at all schools served by the Symphony for students, staff, parents, and relatives. Community participation involvement at monthly OrchKids school concerts is evident by the 500 to 600 local community members who attend. As of September 2013, OrchKids is officially a part of Baltimore City Public School’s long-term strategic plan to build music into every school in the city, thus providing evidence of the city’s support and understanding of having music as a cornerstone of public education.