Event Conference Services co-host the Thrive City String Academy Program
ECS is committed to meeting its reflective process goal to "maintain and establish new partnerships". Earlier this year, ECS was approached to locate space for a two-week summer music program for inner city middle and high school students. The program, Thrive City String Academy would be the first of its kind in Maryland.
The academy, designed to be a "free" live-in camp would provide students the opportunity to focus solely on their craft. The camp was to be funded through a variety of fundraisers and grants.
John Littlejohn, program director pitched his concept to several music teachers in Baltimore City. John was particularly interested in students with a passion for music from low income families. Many teachers loved the idea but expressed that their departments were poorly funded. Children learned the fundamentals. Time is not spent on honing a child's talent. Teachers were also unsure about a stay-over camp. Although, this style camp made perfect sense, students had never been out of the city let alone far from their neighborhoods.
This concern excited John even more. Thrive City String Academy would not only provide inner city students with a music haven but also give them the opportunity to see possibilities beyond their own community. One program off-campus excursion included visiting a farm. "The majority of students attending the program have never seen a cow or an ocean. I can't get them to a beach but I can get them to a farm," John said. ECS researched several nearby farms and sent information to John.
Within a few months of securing space on campus, John realized that program funding may not be possible. The recession hit grant giving hard. John was turned down, because his program was a start-up and funding for programs already in existence were receiving less money if at all. Donations were coming in but not nearly enough to support the program.
Faced with the inevitable, John called ECS to cancel. ECS could not allow this to happen. This program could change a child's life.
ECS encouraged John to reduce the program to a one-week pilot session. (Unfortunately, off campus activities were forfeited.) A reduced package rate to include a dorm room and three meals was offered. Classroom space was provided in Linthicum and in a dorm lounge in order to keep rental costs low. In return, John agreed to take advantage of being on campus by offering students a glimpse into college life. Arrangements were made for admissions to tour the students throughout campus. University Marketing provided goodie bags for each student. Dr. Alex Storrs, Physics Astronomy and Geosciences,
entertained students in Smith Hall's planetarium where he presented, "Music of the Spheres" a special presentation designed to tie in the students' musical background.
On June 22, 15 students arrived on campus. They stayed in the Glen Towers Complex. Students experienced the "all you can eat" buffet in Glen Dining Hall. Many students were in awe of the vast food choices and couldn't believe that they could have ice cream at lunch and dinner! ECS offered PAWS Lounge on a complimentary basis; students watched movies and played billiards. During free time, instructors found students in the lounge or in their rooms playing their instruments. "These kids inspired us. All they need is a chance. They need someone to believe in them. Our goal, this week is to instill in these kids that drugs and violence do not have to part of their life. There are people and organizations out there that can help them succeed. With perseverance and dedication, dreams can become real," said John.
Mid-week, John was faced with one more challenge. Due to a double booking, Peabody Institute had to recant their offer to provide complimentary performance space on the final night. Students and the instructors were gravely disappointed. Their plan to perform in front of family and friends was cancelled.
ECS again rose to the occasion. On Friday, June 26, the final recital took place in PAWS Lounge where 70 family, friends and teachers sat in awe as they listened to the beautiful sound of string music.
Upon departing, John Littlejohn told ECS staff that he was surprised to see a particular music teacher in the audience. This person was not a huge advocate of the program, because a one week camp could not possibly make a difference. After the recital, the teacher, moved to tears apologized for doubting the power of persuasion. Prior to the camp, her students played mediocre at best. They could barely carry a tune. Tonight, she heard the beautiful sound of music.
Thrive City String Academy did indeed make a difference to 15 inner city student musicians. ECS was glad to be a part of this worthy endeavor.
The Reflective Process for Diversity is designed to Include YOU. Please tell us about the exciting diversity stories and projects happening in your department. Contact us.