Fostering a Lifelong Love of Music

December 14, 2023 by Sara Falligant

Peabody students partner with BSO’s OrchKids to reach young musicians in Baltimore City Schools

When Yuval Tessman-Bar-On was first introduced to the trumpet in fifth grade, she didn’t think the instrument would be all that tough to play. After all, it only has three valves. By a 10-year-old’s logic, that means the trumpet makes just three notes. Easy, right?

Tessman-Bar-On quickly learned that those three valves create far more than three notes. And more than a decade later, she still enjoys the challenge.

peabody student yuval tessman-bar-on performs with a group of young OrchKids students
Yuval Tessman-Bar-On, top left, performs with OrchKids musicianship students at the program’s 15-year celebration concert at the Meyerhoff.

“Music did not come easily to me. That made me dig my heels in and decide it’s what I wanted to pursue,” she says. “I looked up to music teachers specifically because they were the ones who were challenging me in a really compelling way.”

Now a graduate student studying trumpet performance at the Peabody Conservatory, Tessman-Bar-On is inspiring the next generation of musicians as the 2023 OrchKids teaching artist fellow with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s (BSO) OrchKids program. OrchKids — which was founded in 2008 by Music Director Laureate of the BSO and Professor and Director of Peabody’s Graduate Conducting Program Marin Alsop — serves more than 1,800 children in seven schools throughout Baltimore City. Students in pre-kindergarten through high school are able to participate in the instrumental music education program that provides its students with instruments, meals, and performance opportunities — all at no cost to their families.

three flautists playing at the OrchKids 15th anniversary concert
Flutes perform at OrchKids’ 15-year celebration concert at the Meyerhoff.

This year, 11 Peabody students are working as teaching artists for OrchKids. During and after school, Peabody students give one-on-one instrumental and small group lessons, as well as coach students through their ensemble music. Through the lessons, OrchKids students refine their technique, learn musical language, and, in the case of advanced students, work with teaching artists to prepare for auditions.

“We’re hopeful these partnerships will help our students and families to even be more prepared for college and the next season in their lives. We are very, very thankful for the partnerships that we have with Johns Hopkins,” says Christy Grace, OrchKids’ Education Coordinator, who works directly with teaching artists.  “It’s great to see professional musicians pursuing their careers and inspiring the young people of Baltimore City to follow their dreams.”

OrchKids violist Rickerra Bassett performing in a duet
OrchKids violist Rickerra Bassett, right, performs a duet during the program’s 2023 summer concert.

As a Musicianship Teaching Artist, Tessman-Bar-On sees that inspiration three days a week in Baltimore City Schools, where she works with kindergarteners, first-, and second-graders to establish musical skills early. One of the most awe-inspiring parts of the curriculum, she says, is an exploratory program, which introduces young students to an instrument from every major instrument family. As a teaching artist, the moments when children meet a new instrument are some of the most beautiful.

“There’s so much awe. It’s just incredible to watch, especially as someone who’s been a musician for a long time,” Tessman-Bar-On says. “I think a lot of us lose that sense of amazement with music. It’s nice to be back in a kindergarten, first-, or second-grade classroom and experience it through their eyes.”

Violist Rickerra Bassett joined OrchKids as one of those wide-eyed kindergarteners. Now a senior in high school, she likes that the teaching artists are “nitpicky” and challenge her to improve after each lesson.

She also appreciates all that OrchKids offers the students of Baltimore, including the chance to perform at The Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, home of the BSO.

a group of orchkids violinists, including justice gaines, performs
Justice Gaines, front row, right, performs with other OrchKids violinists during the 2023 summer concert.

“Opportunities like this really aren’t everywhere. You don’t see after-school music programs in every school. There are actually schools that are losing their music program,” she says, adding that, though the young musicians range in age and play a variety of instruments, OrchKids is one big community.

For 10th-grade violinist Justice Gaines, who started with OrchKids in first grade, that community is like a family. But she says the community building is just one positive outcome of attending OrchKids.

“OrchKids is important to me personally because the community is like a family but it should be important to other people because it opens opportunities for everybody,” Gaines says. “Having access to these high-end, high-quality instruments with good teachers offers a skillset that you can take with you for the rest of your life.”

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Topics: Students, Peabody Institute, Strengthening Partnerships, Support Scholars