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Kids’ Orchestra Unites Children of Different Backgrounds

Sharon Paquette Lose • News • February 22, 2016

Without the music, they have nothing.

That is what Kids’ Orchestra Executive Director Jody Hanet likes to say about her students to underscore the importance of her program.

Baton Rouge-based Kids’ Orchestra, a privately funded nonprofit, is the largest elementary-age, after-school music program in the United States. Currently in its fifth year, it provides 800 kindergarteners through fifth-graders the opportunity to study an array of instruments, sing in a choir and perform in an orchestra.

“We’re all by ourselves; we’ve done all this on our own,” Hanet said.

The Kids’ Orchestra Spring 2016 Honors Orchestra Concert is scheduled for May 7 at McKinley Middle Academic Magnet School.

The mission of Kids’ Orchestra is to bring together children of all socioeconomic backgrounds, using music as an outlet to develop skills and foster teamwork.

Originally, founder Nanette Noland, CEO of the Powell Group, created Kids’ Orchestra as a way to teach music to children in low-income situations. It was later expanded to include all children when the concept was brought to East Baton Rouge and Hanet became involved.

“Our children go to public schools, they go to private schools and they go to charter schools,” Hanet said. “How about just bringing all of our children together?”

Three years ago, with music programs being cut in schools around the country, Hanet was asked to grow and strengthen the program. By going around Baton Rouge elementary schools and speaking to teachers and students, Hanet was able to grow the program from 50 students in a couple schools to 800 in 24 different schools at 12 different teaching sites.

Hanet said Kids’ Orchestra could be in more schools if there was more funding. The program provides the teachers, instruments, transportation and food for each child.

“Kids want to be in Kids’ Orchestra, and parents want their kids in Kids’ Orchestra,” Hanet said. “We actually have a waiting list now. We had to stop at 800 because we have to get more funding. It costs about $1,000 per child.”

Hanet said the rapid loss of elementary school music programs in Louisiana is an enormous problem, and Kids’ Orchestra attempts to ease the situation in the Baton Rouge area. Hanet believes the power of music and education cannot be underestimated.

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