Summer of Song for Waterbury Youngsters

Bravo! Waterbury’s Summer Program

On a hot, stuffy summer afternoon in the Children’s Community School in Waterbury, clear voices filled the halls with song.

Children immersed in musical training were practicing together—which they do three hours a day, four days a week—as part of Bravo! Waterbury’s summer program.

The program, run by Waterbury Symphony Orchestra, is funded in part by Connecticut Community Foundation and is an extension of the Bravo! after school program that has trained up to 200 children a year in grades kindergarten through sixth since 2012. Students sing together in a choir, learn an orchestral musical instrument, play in a “bucket band” together, and receive academic assistance from tutors—all the while developing critical social skills.

“The summer piece of Bravo! is so crucial because without these three months of consistency and spending time with peers, a lot of learning would be lost,” said Calida Jones, a professional violinist and artistic program director of Bravo! Waterbury. The summer program allows youngsters to better focus on their instruments without other distractions.

Through Bravo!, participants also learn to persevere despite the problems they may face outside of school.

“To be truthful, they have a lot of extraordinary challenges they are forced to deal with every day,” said Jones. “They play their instruments through pain, loss, sadness…But we don’t want those struggles to become barriers here.”

“Our job,” said Jones, “is to protect the kids and give them a safe space to feel free to create and express themselves.”

Bravo!, inspired by Venezuela’s “music education miracle” known as El Sistema, offers children high quality musical training and a unique, nurturing environment that develops their social skills.

“The method is simple,” said Jones. “Practicing music together for as many hours as possible builds community. We spend a lot of time together—playing music and even going to the park or for a walk. The time together builds the orchestra and makes a community. It changes our sound.”

Through the intensity, fun, and structure of the program, barriers fall down. Jones sees Bravo! children develop not only musical skills, but communication and coping skills, assertiveness, and confidence that spill over to their academic work and interpersonal interactions.

“They are able to learn conflict resolution by using their mouths and not their hands,” she said.

Bravo! students have performed in the state and around the country, including the East Coast Seminario in North Carolina and with the children’s orchestras at Yale University in New Haven.

Through Bravo!, they have learned the importance of teamwork and forming close bonds with others. Importantly, says Jones, musical education through Bravo! also helps youngsters dream big.

“I want each child to think, ‘I can do this! I will do this! I can do something big,’” said Jones.

Yes, they can.

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Find out how you can support children like those participating in Bravo! Waterbury. Contact us about starting a fund at the Foundation!

2017-03-28T16:39:38-04:00 October 31, 2016|Grantees, Stories|