Oct. 14, 2016


 Metropolitan Youth Orchestra

Many of our IPS students hone their music skills not only in
school auditoriums and music rooms but also in orchestra concert halls, thanks
to a partnership with the Metropolitan Youth


Under the educational arm of the Indianapolis Symphony
Orchestra (ISO), MYO, which performers in Hilbert Circle Theatre, currently has
225 students on its roster. A fourth are IPS students, according to MYO Assistant
Director Krystle Ford.MYO


And many of those youth hail from Sidener Academy for High Ability
, an IPS school where Sheryl Hughes serves as the orchestra
director. This is Sidener’s third year partnering with MYO. (The organization also
has participants from Broad Ripple High School for the Arts and Humanities,
Edison School of the Arts School 47 and Center for Inquiry School 70, among


The experience is invaluable.


“For those students who are really interested and want to
move on with playing their instrument, MYO helps to improve their skills and
gets kids playing at such a high level,” said Hughes, who views MYO as a bonus
to the music instruction she provides.


“I’m only one person, so I do class lessons and whole
orchestra lessons that are not homogenous. During my lessons at school, I’ll
have a cello, flute, violin and viola player all in the same class learning.
It’s not as ideal as going to one-on-one lessons,” Hughes added.


At MYO, students receive private and group lessons from
professional musicians who have played throughout the country and in local
professional orchestras. Sidener students and violinists Liam C. and Alberto G.
both love being in MYO and working with their instructor, Jesse Hawkins.


“I’ve met some new friends at MYO. But I really enjoy Mr.
Hawkins because he’s so much fun to play with and he’s nice,” said Liam, a
fifth-grader. “He challenges me, but he’s not over-extending me.”


Alberto is more impressed with Hawkins’ credentials. “Mr.
Hawkins has been playing for 50 years and plays in the Carmel Symphony
Orchestra; he’s a violinist. He’s gone to a lot of different places and he’s
shared a lot of wisdom with me,” said Alberto, a sixth-grader. It’s amazing to
play with professional musicians. It’s really cool to get their information.”


For Dejnae H., an eighth-grader at Sidener and a violinist
who joined MYO as a second-grader through her church, those private lessons
from MYO instructors come in handy.


“The private lessons we receive at MYO also help when
playing with our school orchestra,” she said. “Since Ms. Hughes has the full
orchestra at school, she doesn’t really get to do one-on-one a lot, but when
she does it’s good. So with our private lesson teachers at MYO, they will work
through things we’re having trouble with. … At school, we learned how to read
the time signatures and the flats and that helps us with MYO, so it’s good to
have both sides of it.”


Celia P., who plays the bass, said MYO often provides more
rigor than a school orchestra can at times.


“In MYO, we do harder stuff because there are kids that have
a little more skill level and they challenge us to see how far we can go,” said
Celia, an eighth-grader. “(At Sidener), we do that sometimes but there are a
lot of kids that aren’t as advanced. It’s good because if we learn something at
MYO and IPS we can use it in the other one.”


MYO began as a youth orchestra but has morphed over the
years into a youth and family development program, using instruction through
stringed instruments (violin, viola, cello and bass) to teach life skills and
engage youth in activities that discourage at-risk behaviors and keep them
committed to staying in school. There’s also a college-readiness aspect to the


Founded by viola player Betty Perry, MYO is also used to
improve family bonds and relationships. The multigenerational, multi-ethnic
orchestra encourages parents to take lessons and play alongside their children,
but it’s not mandatory.


“We’re more than just a music program,” said Ford, who began
playing in MYO in the late 1990s while in middle school. “We’re really trying
to bring families together and trying to be a change agent for our city, so we
want to see families do well and we use music as a vehicle to do that. We’re
teaching life skills to these kids and we’re bringing the family along as well.
… Sometimes when a kid is doing something that’s different, it can alienate the
parents and brothers and sisters … that’s why we make sure we bring parents and
siblings into the fold.”


In addition to the impeccable music instruction children
receive through MYO, as a longtime IPS educator Hughes said there are plenty of
other benefits through this dual partnership.


“The students, because they’re getting better at something,
they’re better disciplined, better listeners, and capable of achieving at a
higher level,” said Hughes. “Music is all about having the challenge of the
piece, working on that piece and successfully being able to play that piece. One
thing that’s important in music is that you can’t play any notes wrong. So,
there’s this level of accuracy and quality that goes into that level of


Bayes H., a seventh-grader at Sidener who plays the viola in
the school orchestra and through MYO, said being a musician helps her
understand and see patterns in much of her school work — even if it has nothing
to do with rhythm. “In math, I can see patterns more easily when they repeat
each other. It helps me read music, too.”


Dejnae said studying music helps her focus.


“With the violin, you have to focus a lot — on where your
notes are, where you are in the music, the conductor and your bow hand. So you
have to focus and think fast while keeping that focus, which can be applied in
a lot of school academics,” she said.


For a schedule of MYO performances, click here.