Science has shown that musical training can change the way our brains develop structurally, process new information, and retain long-term memories. The most drastic of these changes, including enhanced speech processing in people with dyslexia, protecting the brain against dementia, and superior multisensory skills, occur when the musician starts training at a young age. In short, learning to play an instrument at a young age can transform the rest of your life.
W.O. Smith Music School exists to provide affordable, quality music instruction available to children from low-income families in the Metropolitan Nashville area. Students ages 7-18 can take private lessons at significant discount, which includes the instrument, music, and accessories needed to learn how to play.
“The price of our classes has been $0.50 a lesson since the school opened in 1984,” said Chrysa Kovach, Development Coordinator at W.O. Smith. “We wanted students to truly invest in themselves without making it a financial burden.”
The school relies on qualified volunteer faculty to teach private lessons in piano, guitar and bass, drums and percussion, brass, woodwinds, string instruments, and voice. Often these volunteers work in the music industry professionally as songwriters, producers, and musicians. A private lesson with any one of these artists could easily cost upwards of $60. W.O. Smith also has a number of passionate volunteers from all industries from IT and college students to lawyers and other business professionals.
W.O. Smith works to ensure that even the most financially laden students can enroll in classes.
“We have a number of scholarships available,” said Kovach. “Our aim is to never turn anyone away simply if they cannot pay.”
The real value of these classes, though, is the mental break they provide for students.
“These 30 minute lessons are 30 minutes of peace,” Kovach said. “They can escape the stress and noise of the outside world and just focus on making themselves and their music better.”
Students can also participate in ensembles at W.O. Smith, either in vocal choirs, rock bands, jazz ensembles, string orchestras, and lab bands, all at a reduced rate. In these groups, students enhance their technical skills while improving teamwork, communication, and patience.
Summer camps and specialty classes are available in specialized professional training, including audio production, songwriting. There is also composition, which is in partnership with Intersection; a professional contemporary music ensemble in Nashville.
“There really is nothing exactly like us,” explained Kovach. “Musical arts education affects kids and provides a methods of communications when they cannot use words.”
W.O. Smith’s track record speaks for itself. Around 500 students are enrolled every year. Of that student body, an impressive 100% of their seniors graduate high school and 98% of those students go on to a two or four year program. The majority (66%) of students returned to the program in 2018, and the most common reason for not returning was graduation. Volunteers also returned in 2018 at a remarkable rate (66%).
“We are not making the next super musicians,” said Kovach. “We are making good people.”
In other words, they are transforming lives.
Learn more / donate at wosmith.org.
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