Sparking minds through music | Opinion

Imagine a unique partnership that blends the talent and artistry of professional musicians with local school children who may have never even held a musical instrument. Add to that mix the thoughtful generosity of a local banking institution committed to providing meaningful learning opportunities for children of disadvantaged communities.

What is the result? The launch of a new program that fosters the musical, academic, and social development of Sabal Palm Elementary students by providing free after-school music education. With the support of Bank of America, and guided by TSO musicians Allyson Royal and Megumi Terry, students will have free access to musical instruments and instruction, further enriching their education and personal growth. 

Serving residents from the most impoverished zip code in Florida, 32304, Sabal Palm Elementary is a hidden gem in Leon County. In 2018, the school was selected to be a Community Partnership School, one of only 27 around the state, which means that through strategic collaborations with organizations and other educational institutions, the school removes all barriers that could impede students’ education by providing them with on-site access to health and wellness services, case management and personalized learning experiences.

The idea to provide music lessons at Sabal Palm originated with Bank of America Senior Vice President Andrew Harrison, who grew up in Tallahassee, attended Sabal Palm Elementary, and has witnessed the transformational power of strong school-community relationships.

As a sponsor and supporter of the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, Harrison also understands that the symphony does much more in the community than perform classical concerts throughout the year. The TSO is heavily engaged in children’s educational programs through on-site outreach at local schools, Young People’s Concerts at Ruby Diamond Concert Hall, free Open Dress Rehearsals, family friendly concerts, and the recently launched Symphonic Safari Adventure online program which introduces elementary age children to the instruments of the orchestra through fun interviews with TSO musicians.

With a mission to engage, enrich, and inspire people at all stages of life through great music, music education is an integral pillar of the TSO’s operations, and this new program will support the goal of Sabal Palm to provide expanded learning to its students.

Is it possible that learning to play an instrument can improve a child’s academic growth and achievement? Yes, the benefits are many.

Studies show that playing an instrument improves coordination and increases memory skills. In addition, listening skills improve as students listen to their teacher and read a musical score, while they must also pay attention to pitch, rhythm, and tempo.

Because music and mathematics are highly intertwined, learning music often helps children better understand math. Their social skills improve as they learn perseverance, collaboration, and experience a sense of achievement. This results in improved self-esteem.

Teachers point out that students’ attendance also improves because they have an incentive to come to school when they participate in an activity they love, and their parents become more involved as well.

The after-school program, Murdoch’s Li’l Mozarts, will launch in January, providing participating students with free access to instruments and instruction.

The TSO and Bank of America are honored to join Sabal Palm’s Community Partnerships to remove barriers and provide meaningful learning opportunities that can prepare children for a more promising future.

By Mary Lee Kiracofe, Chair of the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors

Courtesy of the Tallahassee Democrat