Answering music’s call

By Rebecca Kirkman

Award-winning OrchKids graduate Keyona Carrington brings passion for music to TU

Woman smiling with black background
(Photo: Alex Wright)

Keyona Carrington picked up a clarinet for the first time as a second-grader at Lockerman Bundy Elementary School through the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s OrchKids program.

It was a moment that set the trajectory for the rest of her life.

Today the first-generation college student from west Baltimore is a freshman at Towson University working toward a career in music education.

Over 11 years with OrchKids—a program founded by former BSO music director Marin Alsop (hon. ’16) to create social change for Baltimore City youth—Carrington experienced unprecedented personal growth.

The summer before seventh grade, she left Baltimore for the first time to attend Interlochen Summer Music Camp in Michigan. She returned the following summer then spent two summers at Ithaca Summer Music Academy in New York.

“OrchKids really helped me see a wide range of different ways to go about music and everyday life,” Carrington says. “It can help you build connections, have creative ideas and think outside of the box, which is a lot of what we do in OrchKids with our own projects. Asking ‘OK, what is going on in the world now? What can I do to have a creative voice, a creative aspect that can reach somebody?’”

Carrington accepted every opportunity that came her way and rose to each challenge, including attending the Baltimore School for the Arts, spending Saturdays studying music through the Peabody Preparatory’s Tuned-In program and participating in the Archipelago Project Summer Camp. She was awarded the Marin Alsop Citizenship Award and a college scholarship from the D’Addario Foundation.

In spring 2021, Carrington had the honor of conducting on the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall stage in a farewell concert for Alsop.

Woman playing clarinet with black background

“Being on the stage with my peers felt good because I knew that I was doing this for Ms. Marin Alsop,” Carrington recalls of her invitation to conduct her OrchKids peers in “D Major Jam” by Jessie Montgomery. “It was an opportunity not a lot of people get.”

Carrington saw the experience as a way to thank Alsop and the OrchKids founders.

“It was just a way to show Ms. Marin I learned something from this program, [to tell her] ‘You helped me, you inspired me to the point where I was comfortable to get up there and conduct,’” she adds. “I wanted her to see how she helped us kids in the city.”

Carrington brings her talents to TU as a member of the symphonic band, Agape Campus Christian Fellowship and the Students Achieve Goals through Education (SAGE) Learning Community, a program providing support for first-year, first-generation college students.

Although she entered TU as a forensic chemistry major and music performance minor, Carrington has been called to focus on her true passion—music. She plans to move into the music education program with a business administration minor in the spring.

After graduation, Carrington hopes to pursue a graduate degree and inspire other Baltimore City students through the power of music.

Through her experiences, she is inspired to give back.

“To see how I grew and how people gave me an opportunity and then to see my parents so proud of me playing now…I'm all about using music for good.”