Saturday, November 14, 2009

Week 5: Visiting ORCHKids in Baltimore

"Start them early!" This El Sistema approach toward instrumental instruction came to life when I visited the ORCHKids program in Baltimore this past week where all kindergartners learn how to play the violin as part of their school day. They first begin with a "Paper Orchestra" (see photo from Sistema Scotland) to help master the physical challenges of holding and playing the instrument without fear of breaking it, but then quickly transition to the real thing.

Early instrumental instruction accessible to all students is a model that I would like to bring back to Juneau. It ensures access for all students by offering violin instruction during the school day and then transitioning to after-school in the 1st grade. A kindergarten strings class also provides a developmentally appropriate intervention to support mental discipline, focus and improved memory. Research studies show that early musical training affects brain development in young children: "After one year the musically trained children performed better in a memory test that is correlated with general intelligence skills such as literacy, verbal memory, visiospatial processing, mathematics and IQ." Here is the link to the article from ScienceDaily.

Dan Trahey, the director of the ORCHKids program, shared with the fellows a classroom violin storage unit on wheels that they had custom-made to help cut down on transition time, as well as avoiding those opportunities for violins to break when children are taking them in and out of their cases. This would be a must for Juneau!

With so much footage from the week, I was inspired to attempt my first video documentation using my new Flip camera, iPhone and newest version of iMovie. This short documentary is posted below.  I hope you like it! I included some information that I learned from Eric Jensen's webinar on Teaching with Poverty in Mind.  The three main components that Jensen recommends all schools include to support children in poverty are evident in both the ORCHKids and El Sistema programs:  Relationships, Socialization and Social Status.  My Abreu Fellow, Dantes Rameau, made several postings about our visit to Batlimore if you'd like to read more.  Thank you, Lockerman-Bundy Elementary School, ORCHKids and World in Motion for welcoming the Abreu Fellows into your program this past week. I can't tell you how gratifying it was to be working with kids again! Hope you enjoy this short video:


  1. I know you did a piece of editing to get this video on. It was worth the wait. I really enjoy seeing video from so many points of view.
    Is the flip cam on your phone?

  2. Couldn't help thinking that the people who got us into such an economic mess this year lacked a chunk of EQ.
    Nothing like having all the information and technology in the world but still not be able to integrate it all with your sense of empathy in tact.
    Will we do any better with the next generation? The odds of getting it wrong are, to say the least, pretty frightful for their future.

  3. Lori,
    Nice video. Loved the line from the little girl near the end!
    Ellen Spiro

  4. Dearest Lorrie,
    Tonight in snowy Juneau I thought of you and found this video. I could have used those buckets earlier to remove the snow from the deck. Your experiences are phenomenal and your perception is, as always, engaged and connecting. I didn't get seasick once watching the video which speaks to your steady hand. Thanks for making your life available to all of us who miss you!

  5. The Eric Jenson book is next on my list. I think he hit the nail on the head.

    What a fun week this must have been.


  6. Hi Suzuki Strings,

    The Flip Camera is separate from my iPhone. I can't zoom in as much as I'd like, but it's an inexpensive and unobtrusive option. I used my iPhone to record and take still photos. Thank you so much for all of your thoughtful comments! Lorrie