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Students in the Little Masters program perform in Mitchell Hall

Little Masters big stars of Holiday Pops

Photo courtesy of Master Players Concert Series

Students from outreach music program featured in Mitchell Hall debut

On Dec. 9, four students from Bayard Middle School walked onstage at the Master Players’ Holiday Pops concert at the University of Delaware to show what they learned in front of an audience of almost 600 strangers. The students collaborated with their teachers for a performance of a Hanukkah medley that was met with uproarious applause.

These students are participants in the Little Masters Project, a community outreach program designed and operated by the University of Delaware Master Players Concert Series that gives free instruments and lessons to students in underserved communities.

Last spring, after considering various locations, Bayard Middle School in Wilmington, Delaware, was selected as the location of the pilot program. During the 2015-16 school year, the school reported 80.3 percent of its student body to be “low income.” The school offers a group orchestra class to students, but most of the students play district-provided instruments that they must return during the summer.

On Oct. 9, 2017, the Little Masters Project (LMP) launched its pilot program at Bayard Middle School. The teaching team, led by artistic director Xiang Gao, went to Bayard Middle School and met with nine students selected by the school’s administration as ideal candidates for the pilot. They then gave each student a violin, viola or cello, which the students will keep and maintain. The students finished the day with 45-minute private lessons from the instructors. These sessions continued weekly until the last session on Dec. 4, with one session per month being held on UD’s campus.

When asked about their interest in the program, one participant said, “I want to join LMP because I started violin and it calmed me down. Now, I want to learn more about it so I can be a famous musician. My dream is to make music.” A grandmother of a student thanked LMP for “this opportunity to help my granddaughter to learn beautiful music.”

The instruments the students received were either donated directly by supporters in the community or were purchased using monetary donations from supporters. Other supplies included rosin, wire music stands, spare strings, practice mutes and rock stops for cellos. Monetary donations also funded the instructors’ fees and student transportation.

With the permission of the parents of participants, Master Players has documented the pilot program and produced a short documentary that can be viewed online. According to the Master Players program, the growth of each student as a performer will show how music has the power to transform and change people’s lives. Master Players will also have updates on student progress on its Facebook page.

Master Players has welcome Suzanne L. Burton as a senior faculty consultant for LMP.  Burton is the coordinator of music education studies at the University of Delaware. She will help the program recruit private instructors and develop classroom activities outside of private lessons.

Over the past few year, Master Players has received overwhelming support for LMP. With the guidance of concert series council member Randy Stone, a crowdfunding campaign raised more than $15,000 for LMP. The Master Players program is grateful to the many individuals who donated instruments for the project, as well as Flushing Violin Shop for its support. Those wishing to support LMP may click here. Those wishing to donate instruments should email masterplayers@udel.edu.

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