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New After School program seeks to ignite a life-long love for music

Roosevelt Elementary School (Tulare) second grader Cruz Martinez loves singer/song writer Katy Perry's Firework. "It's my favorite song," she says. "I want to hear it all the time." It's a song she also hopes to play soon on her violin. Cruz and several other students are part of a new beginning violin class offered at her school through the Choices After School Program.

After School Music program
A visit to the Roosevelt after school program finds Cruz and classmates Michael Casares, Angel Ochoa and Victorio Cabrerra learning the basics of music and the violin with instructor Jeffrey Fritz. Mr. Fritz is currently a member and section leader of both the Kings and Tulare County Symphony Orchestras, and a member of the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra. He and co-teacher Frank Pitts provide the students with an hour of instruction each day. After School Consortium project coordinator Virginia Sepeda hopes the new program sets off some musical fireworks in the lives of students.

With just three weeks of instruction from Mr. Pitts and Mr. Fritz, the students have already learned about rhythms, bowing and notes. "Many of these students have natural talent," he says.

After School Music program The violin program was the vision of Tulare County Symphony past president Florence Kabot, who with the support of music lovers and a handful of Tulare service clubs, donated the instruments to begin the program. Ms. Kabot was inspired to develop the after school program having seen a performance from members of the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA). Dr. Bruce Kiesling, music director of the Tulare County Symphony, is also the conductor for YOLA. YOLA was inspired by El Sistema, the Venezuelan music education system that nurtured the Los Angeles Philharmonic's own music director, Gustavo Dudamel. "Violins are very difficult to play," says Ms. Kabot. "By starting students with the instrument in second grade, they will have more time to develop their skills and enjoy the experience.

The students at the Roosevelt after school program are beginning music instruction earlier than their peers. "We want to connect students to an experience they may not have access to otherwise," says Ms. Sepeda. "We also hope to unearth talents and passions in these kids, possibly paving their way to college and career."

Mr. Fritz hopes that the students will be a positive influence on their peers at Roosevelt Elementary, attracting other students to the program. He notes that they will also be more advanced when they graduate to the string program across the street at Mulcahy Middle School, having a positive influence there, as well.

"We appreciate the vision and initiative of Ms. Kabot and the members of the symphony in developing this program for the students at Roosevelt," says County Superintendent Jim Vidak. "We look forward to continuing our partnership and working toward the development of a successful music education model other after school programs can enjoy."