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musiConnects Fosters a Love of Chamber Music in Boston Public Schools

After witnessing the state of arts programs in Boston Public Schools, violinist Betsy Hinkle decided it was time for a change. In 2007, she started the Boston Public Quartet and its partner organization musiConnects to provide Boston communities access to in-depth, holistic instruction on string instruments, forums for creative collaboration, and engaging classical music performances.

Today the quartet, composed of cellist Michael Dahlberg, violist Jason Amos, violinist Marji Gere, and Betsy herself, is the resident ensemble at Chittick Elementary in Mattapan, Massachusetts where they are working to develop children’s self-expression, leadership, and community through chamber music.

“We really consider chamber music the music of friends.” Betsy says.

The quartet’s musiConnects program provides private violin, viola and cello lessons, music circle, and chamber music classes to 34 students at Chittick Elementary. The Chittick has no other music or visual arts programs for its K through 5th graders and 84% of its students qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch. More than 100 students are on the waiting list for entry to the program.

“We’ve seen transformation of kids’ self-esteem, they’re really becoming more confident,” Betsy said. “We’ve seen kids turn from disruptive in the group to real leaders and helpers.”

Betsy states that the program specially targets students who are struggling in the classroom.

“We see the string quartet as a working model of a small community,” Betsy says. “So when we teach kids chamber music we’re teaching them deep listening skills and all levels of communication – verbal and non-verbal. These skills are the basis for lots of skills in life.”

musiConnects is currently piloting a similar partnership at Charles Sumner Elementary in Roslindale with nine first graders in group instruction, where they hope to continue the same program. They have also started a Chamber Kids program that allows children already enrolled in other lesson programs to learn chamber music at an affordable rate.

Over the past year, From the Top’s Center for the Development of Arts Leaders has been working with musiConnects. Two From the Top arts leaders Anna DeLoi and Nash Ryder have shadowed the quartet at Chittick, visited kindergarten classrooms to expose them to musical concepts, and helped organize a fundraising concert to benefit musiConnects.

Check out musiConnects.org to learn more about how the Boston Public Quartet is helping the arts in Boston Public Schools.