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PLAY Music Brings Violin to Title I Schools

Rachel WatsonSeptember 22, 2022 – The Piedmont Learning Academy for Youth (PLAY) Music program is bringing the sound of music into the classrooms – and the lives – of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools students.

A function of the Winston-Salem Symphony, PLAY Music began in 2015 as an effort to incorporate more music into academic settings. Music education is often treated as separate from core subjects like math and science, but studying music actually helps promote brain functions like memorization, paying attention, and fine motor skills in muscles associated with writing and using tools. In other words, a student who’s well-versed in music has an advantage in almost any other class they take.

“We’re developing the whole child, head, heart and hands,” said Rachel Watson, Senior Director of Education, Engagement, and Inclusion for the Winston-Salem Symphony. “We use the violin as a vehicle to reach all of those other goals.”

Playing GamesPLAY Music is currently working with elementary schoolers at Diggs-Latham Elementary School, Ward Elementary School, and Jefferson Elementary School, where every second grader is getting lessons in the violin. The youngest children start out on paper violins, which they get to create and take care of themselves to help promote responsibility, but once they’ve got the hang of things, they’re promoted to playing on real instruments. The program offers most students their first experience in an ensemble, so they have to learn to work as a team to make their pieces sound right. Their literacy skills also get a boost when they learn to read music – they even get some multilingual education with a few songs that contain Spanish lyrics.

“You wouldn’t think of it as literacy education at first, but it’s essentially a different language that they’re learning to read,” said PLAY Music Program Administrator Kate McFarland.

Older students who work with the PLAY Music program are eventually able to try out new instruments (all strings for now, but hopefully they’ll have more band options in the future). They can also volunteer as mentors for younger students in after-school programs if they want to help give the next generation the Raising Wandssame experience they had. PLAY Music helps to integrate music into the entire K12 experience and keep WS/FCS students engaged with music education all the way through graduation.

“One of our goals is to expose students to a wider variety of instrument sounds while also working to support the middle and high school strings programs,” said Ward Elementary Music Teacher Tonya Allison. “We are looking forward to a long friendship with this community partner.”

Making PLAY Music available specifically to Title I schools is critical for closing the gap in access to music between different communities. PLAY Music provides lessons and access to an instrument for free, so families that can’t invest in private lessons can still see their child flourish in their musical education. Watson says that the violin should be for everyone, and PLAY Music and WS/FCS are proud to work together to carry out that vision.

“I want to share my love and passion for music with those who might not otherwise have the resources to enjoy it,” Watson said.

Jake Browning
(336) 727-8213 Ext. 70545