West Seattle schools: SYSO’s music mentorship returns

(‘Instrument petting zoo’ from Seattle Super String Saturday presented by SYSO)
Once again this year, students in our area are gaining musical mentorship courtesy of the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra – and that’ll include another Super String Saturday event for the community – read on for SYSO’s update on what’s ahead:

This week Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra (SYSO) begins its fifth year of providing professional musicians to coach beginning violin, viola, cello and bass players in the elementary schools in Southwest Seattle – Arbor Heights, Concord International, Highland Park, Roxhill, Sanislo and West Seattle Elementary Schools – as well as at Denny International Middle School, completely free of charge to the schools and the students’ families.

Professional musicians Kim Roy, Begin Scarseth, Daniel Mullikin and Jared Ballance bring their expertise as teachers and performers to the classroom. These talented musician-educators have served as university music faculty and private teachers, as well as having performed with such local and regional orchestras as Northwest Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Rock Orchestra, and Tacoma Symphony Orchestra. In Southwest Seattle, they collaborate with Seattle Public School music teachers to enhance violin, viola, cello and string bass instruction.

In the six elementary schools, SYSO coaches co-teach with Elementary Instrumental Music teacher Casey Cheever, who is himself a SYSO alumnus. Mr. Cheever worked with SYSO coaches last year and explains the impact of this program for both himself and his students:

“As a public school music teacher, I am grateful to offer my personal musical experience and guidance to the next generation. As I work alongside the SYSO coaches I feel a sense of home and comfort knowing that I am still a part of a wonderful community of musicians.”

In addition to supporting school-day instruction, the coaches provide free lessons before-school at each elementary school and they coach at the local West Seattle Community Orchestras (WSCO) which rehearses every Tuesday evening at Chief Sealth International High School and is a program free to all public school students. WSCO rehearsals begin Tuesday, October 8 and spots are still available for their beginning-level orchestra.

All of this individualized support provided by SYSO coaches to Southwest music students has led to an incredible surge in enrollment in Denny International Middle School’s orchestra. Just four years ago the Denny orchestra was comprised of one class and 39 students. Today the anticipated enrollment for three levels of orchestra is 165 students, in large part due to the continued encouragement and musical skills development that the students received from SYSO coaches in their elementary years.

An opportunity to celebrate the young musicians of Southwest Seattle will happen at Super String Saturday on Saturday, January 25, 2014 at Chief Sealth International High School. This fun day of music-making includes the Southwest Seattle elementary and middle school musicians getting a chance to meet, listen to, and play alongside the Seattle Youth Symphony, one of the country’s top youth orchestras. The students, families and the community are all invited.

The Southwest Seattle Strings Project is offered free to these schools because of generous individual, corporate and foundation donors, including the National Endowment for the Arts, Washington State Arts Commission, The Clowes Fund, The Washington Women’s Foundation and the RealNetworks Foundation. To learn more about the Southwest Seattle Strings Project, please visit SYSO’s website at www.syso.org/outreach or view a recent video about the impact of the program. To help sustain this program, individuals can donate at syso.org/giving/make_a_gift.html

And you can check out the SYSO’s performances – schedule and details at syso.org.

2 Replies to "West Seattle schools: SYSO's music mentorship returns"

  • Rob in Arbor Heights October 4, 2013 (10:56 am)

    My daughter, an 8th grader at Denny, has been a beneficiary of the SYSO mentoring program since its inception 5 years ago. The SYSO coaches have been instrumental (get it?) in my daughter’s development as a musician. However, I would like to comment on Denny IMS’s orchestra program, as mentioned in this article. Despite the orchestra teacher’s announcement at the end of the previous school year (last June) that she was leaving Denny, the school has not yet hired a new teacher. A few different substitute teachers (not necessarily music teachers) have covered the orchestra classes so far this year, and now I hear through the grapevine that a permanent teacher won’t be hired until “end of January”. The winter concert should be real interesting. The situation is frustrating not only for the students, whose instruction is coming primarily from SYSO coaches two days per week, but also for parents of these young musicians, who are forced to rely on their kids for any tidbits of information about the search for a new teacher. Denny administration has not been forthcoming at all. Would it be asking too much for someone to send out a memo to orchestra parents addressing the current situation? Why wasn’t a new teacher hired over the summer? I am familiar with at least two of the applicants (once again, heard it through the grapevine), either of which would be
    great hires. What’s taking so long?

    As mentioned in this article, enrollment in the Denny orchestra program is increasing, thanks in part to the SYSO coaching program in West Seattle elementary schools; however, instead of capitalizing on this increased interest and using it to build a strong program, the school has botched hiring a new teacher, and the orchestra program is just drifting in limbo waiting for leadership. To Denny administration — should my comments really be necessary? Why aren’t you out in front of this? Give us some information! And if you need help finding a new teacher, consider tapping West Seattle’s active music community. We’d love to help!

  • Ttt October 5, 2013 (7:48 am)

    Gatewood had this program last year too, and unfortunately they are not going to receive the mentor help this year. :(

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