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Soundscapes is an after school non-profit, el Sistema inspired youth educational development program teaching transformational life skills to socio-economically disadvantaged youth in Newport News, VA using intensive music study and ensemble performance. Founded in 2009 as the first such program in Virginia, the Newport News model will be replicated statewide upon its completion. Eventually, Soundscapes will offer classes in disadvantaged neighborhoods to children from first grade through high school. El Sistems is the Venezuelan paradigm that has been adapted for use in more than 45 countries, with nearly 60 organizations in the U.S.
At present we serve grades 1 through 5 in two disadvantaged neighborhoods in Newport News--Carver Elementary and Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center. These "nucleos" serve as alternate model societies where artistic and life skills faculty, assisted by mentors, offer safe, nurturing environments that use music to open these children's minds to learning, to inspire them to succeeed and to live them the self esteem and skills to excel in the modern workplace.
Ensemble music requires discipline, cooperation, respect for others, curiosity and the drive to succeed in frequent public performances. Children perform in choral and instrumental orchestras according to a curriculum that embraces many SOLs in science, math, and language arts in addition to arts.
Families are highly supportive of the program, which brings orchestral music into the neighborhoods, instilling pride. Furthermore, it offers their children a chance to "shine."
The program is offered in partnership with the Newport News Public School system and the city. Statistics show that long term music study leads to higher academic scores, higher graduation rates, reduced crime and drug activity and development of skills needed for the workplace.
- Conover Hunt
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