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Orchestrating Confidence and Building Relationships

Kalamazoo Kids in Tune

Where would we be without music? From reducing anxiety to improving memory and cognition, music is a universal tool that improves our quality of life. So, it was a no-brainer when the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra (KSO) teamed up with Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS) to bring musical learning to KPS students.

Kalamazoo Kids in Tune (KKIT) is an after-school program where students from early elementary through high school study instruments and participate in orchestra lessons and rehearsals. A select group of middle and high school students eventually return to the elementary program and mentor the younger students twice per week.

The primary goal of this program is to introduce students to orchestral music and build their confidence through the development of a musical skill.

“Kids love the opportunity to interact with classmates that they have never met while trying an instrument,” said Ben Gudbrandson, Artistic Director for KKIT.

Currently an orchestra teacher at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts, Gudbrandson finds inspiration in his students’ energy and willingness to learn.

“Middle school kids are great!” He said. “They are so eager and hungry to learn new material. I love their appetite for new ideas and desire to please their ensemble.”

The exuberance displayed by his pupils helped Gudbrandson broaden his view on musical education.

“Early on I thought being an orchestra teacher meant developing the perfect little musicians,” he said. “It is really about the investment in the child and the relationship as a result of the music. The instrument is just the tool to learn about relationships and overcome roadblocks.”

Establishing these relationships is where KKIT provides support as the program explores the human component of music, rather than solely focusing on its technical aspects.

“We offer a more flexible structure so that we can dive into the immediate needs of the students,” said Gudbrandson. “At school, we are driven by the next performance. At KKIT, we can react to needs as they occur.”

Being able to talk and debrief about lessons is a key part of what makes this program so effective as it allows students to learn at their own pace.

“We have a lot of professional support, but we try to let the students drive,” said Gudbrandson. “It is great to see them taking on the role of teacher and helping the new students experience an instrument they have never played.”

KKIT’s goal of allowing participants to choose their path has blossomed into collaborations with Western Michigan University (WMU).

“We visit WMU, taking students on campus to see musical excellence as well as career options within fine arts and music,” Gudbrandson explained.

Gudbrandson feels the program serves an important role in the lives of participants.

“KKIT allows children to experience beauty and art on a daily basis, which is one of the most special things you could give a child. With everything that is happening in our world, it is important to have a safe haven!”

Learn about upcoming KKIT events on the organization’s Facebook page and catch a performance!

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