A music class taught by an organization focused on young students who might not otherwise have access to lessons and instruments was wrapping up when a boy turned to an instructor and said he wanted to play the violin.
“’Well,’ I said, ‘Do you want to keep playing now’ because it was time for the class to leave the room,” said the instructor, Bonnie Greene.
But the second-grade boy was looking further down the road.
“He said, ‘This is what I want to do when I grow up,’” Greene said.
The exchange occurred during classes led by Harmony Madison last month during a residency program at Leopold Elementary School. It was part of the first year of the Summer Arts Academy run by the Madison School District to offer learning opportunities in visual and performing arts.
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Residency programs for grades one through five were provided at existing programs run by Madison School and Community Recreation. While Harmony Madison was one such residency, other elementary sites featured other residency programs in dance, visual art and theater.
Expanded offerings for grades six through 12 were run at three middle school sites — Cherokee, O’Keeffe and Wright.
In partnership with Madison community members, businesses and local artists, the district is seeking to offer arts programming in performing arts, digital music and media production, acting, theater and more.
“We particularly wanted to target access for students who were invited to summer school, as these students need and deserve the rewarding connections to school programming that the arts can bring,” said Peter Kuzma, arts education coordinator for the Madison School District.
While the summer classes were in the morning, the Summer Arts Academy was in the afternoon and was free of charge for registered students.
“It’s fun,” said first-grader Khloe Jones said about the violin class.
Second-grader Anyelly Castillo Salguero said she would continue to play the violin if she had another chance.
Harmony Madison was contracted to run the residency program at Leopold. The organization intends to offer music lessons earlier than students can start them in school and to create a solid foundation so that more students will be successful pursuing music in the more advanced school and community performance groups. It also wants to connect the students to organizations that can provide performance and private lesson opportunities beyond what schools can provide.
Greene is the founder of the Music Makers program, a nonprofit designed to give private, high-quality music instruction to mostly low-income children that is now run by the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras. Music Makers was invited to be part of the residency program along with the Madison Conservatory. The residency was a chance for the organizations, which are set up to provide private lessons and instruments, to connect with students.
Ria Hodgson, director of WYSO Music Makers, did some teaching during the residency. Her organization offers private lessons and group classes with subsidies available. She said one parent already has reached out to arrange bass lessons for her child.
During the two-week Harmony Madison residency, the students had three, 45-minute daily sessions except during two field-trip days. They learned how to play the violin, studied music history by learning about the diddley bow, explored world beats on pails and African drums, and explored jazz improvisation, melody, harmony and rhythm with ensemble singing.
The teachers from Harmony Madison — Greene, Laurie Lang and Chris Wagoner — were joined by other colleagues and volunteers.
The residency was the first program offered by the organization, which is officially called Harmony Madison of Community Organizations Promoting the Arts, or COPA. Steve Sveum is the director. Some of the new opportunities might be at the facility currently being used by COPA until a new one is built. Some of the motivation and the approach are led by research on the effectiveness of music study for brain development that helps with learning reading and math skills, Greene said.
“Harmony Madison’s mission is to offer music lessons and performance opportunities to Madison area youth,” Greene said. “It’s access to the arts.”