Striking a Major Chord With Minors

A local program restores music education from flat to natural, By Christine Pasalo
Article printed in San Diego Magazine
Opus scholarship gala with students from Otay and Lauderbach Elementary, Oak Park Percussion Ensemble, the Balboa Park Core Chamber Ensemble

A PETTING ZOO FOR… musical instruments? Yep, you read that right. When music students in the Community Opus Project participate in a local event, they man a “petting zoo.” Violins, cellos, and other instruments replace farm animals, and students invite other children and adults to learn how to play.

It’s all part of the program at Opus.

Launched in 2010, the San Diego Youth Symphony (SDYS) sought to make music education available and accessible to all students in San Diego County. This school year, Opus will benefit 250 students from Otay, Lauderbach, Rice, Harborside, Rosebank, and Vista Square Elementary Schools.

“A lot of students don’t have a pathway to music,” says Dalouge Smith, president and CEO of SDYS. “They don’t have music in their schools. They can’t afford private lessons. There’s no route for them to get to the stage.”

SDYS is carving the path. It raises funds at the local, state, and national levels and brings the Community Opus Project to musically underserved communities. Students enrolled in the program get new instruments and instruction for free.

Inspired by El Sistema, Venezuela’s music program, Opus instruction includes learning to play one’s selected string, wind, or brass instrument, music theory, singing, art, and playing as an ensemble. Students are also encouraged to teach each other… and their parents.

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