Music To My Ears is a community service project in which experienced middle and high school student musicians volunteer to teach elementary school children free weekly musical instrument lessons. What Music to My Ears accomplishes is to help fill the gap left when the local public school Strings Program was dropped from the elementary curriculum because of budgetary cutbacks. Ethan says, “Most importantly, it gives the students an introduction to a musical instrument.” Hopefully, after being involved in the music program students will decide to continue through private lessons or even later in middle school they may select an elective, such as Strings or Band, which many students do. The program is run as professional instructors would teach. They start with the basics and move forward using the same music books that their instructors use in professional lessons. Students learn about their instrument, note reading, and beginner songs. There are expectations of the students with daily practice and goals to accomplish. Ethan thinks this gives each student a sense of the commitment and benefits of playing a musical instrument. As of summer 2011, 34 teachers and students have benefitted from this program. Ethan, along with the other teachers, benefit because they gain valuable experience on their own instrument, leadership skills, and a sense of pride that being a mentor and giving back to their community provides. The students gain skill on a musical instrument and someone to look up to that they can learn from. An additional benefit is meeting new people and making friends. Music to My Ears also helps families by providing music lessons that might not be affordable during these tough economic times. Ethan is starting his third session in the fall of 2011 and has 15 students signed up to be placed with teachers. He hopes to continue it for many years to come and is currently working on spreading this initiative to other communities. Please visit his website at MusicToMyEarsHanover.org and click on the “Starting Your Own” page to see how you can make a difference.
Ethan’s Inspiration: In his own words
Question: What are some past and present projects you have worked on to help make a positive difference in the lives of others?
Answer: My love of giving back to my community started in the most subtle way when I now think about the importance volunteering has in my life. When I was 5 years old I joined the YMCA Indian Guides. I did many small projects within my group, such as providing dinner for the local volunteer fire fighters, working at the Food Bank, and sending care packages to our troops. As I got older and became more involved, I was the lead on several projects, such as a literacy drive where my group collected 416 used books for the local YMCA’s afterschool program and two elementary schools.
In the spring of 2009, I was taking Strings class in 5th grade at my local elementary school when my teacher announced that because of budget cuts my school district had removed the musical instrument program from the elementary school curriculum. Both my brother and I had benefited from the program; we took viola and both play guitar outside of school. I know how important it is to have an opportunity to be introduced to a musical instrument. Music is an important part of my life and my friends' lives. With the help of these same friends I knew I could do something to continue the program. In October of 2009, I founded Music To My Ears, a community service program that offers free musical instrument lessons to elementary school students taught by experienced middle and high school musicians. We teach guitar, piano, and violin. Our lessons help provide an introduction to a musical instrument so students can decide if they want to continue lessons in middle school or privately. It has been very successful and so far 34 children have benefitted. We are starting our third session in September 2011 and have 15 children signed up for lessons. Every year I try to add more teachers and students to my program along with additional instruments. Check out this article and read about Music To My Ears on page 4.
Q: What are some of your long term plans?
A: Recently, I’ve met so many families who expressed that their community schools have also lost resource programs as a result of the economic downturn. Budget cuts have especially reduced music class funding. So I want to call on all musicians who have ever considered how they could get involved with giving back to their community to join me in volunteering by sharing your musical talent. Please visit my website at MusicToMyEarsHanover.org and click on the “Starting Your Own” page to see how we can make a difference together. I want to spread this initiative to many communities.
I am also working on a book about my experience founding Music To My Ears. My hope is that other children will read about how important it is to get involved with their communities and what a difference you can make in someone’s life. We teach children about so many things, we need to teach and show them what community outreach can accomplish!
Q: How has the Young Scholars program helped you to reach your goals and accomplishments?
A: The Young Scholars program provides me with many opportunities. It allows me to network with kids like myself, provides educational seminars, offers resources to support my family in my educational planning, and has made available a wide range of specialized programs in which I can participate, such as the Ambassador Program.
The Ambassador Program has given me a year and a half of valuable seminars and resources that have greatly helped progress my project and improve my communication, leadership and organizational skills. It is an invaluable program that gave me the support I needed, from the Ambassador Program Coordinator and Advisor to highly skilled professionals that mentored us in training. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to start their own community service project.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
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