How can music help a child in need? The Metropolitan Youth Orchestra is a family and youth development program of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra aimed at providing music education and skill-building to Indianapolis youth. Krystle Ford, Associate Director of the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra, shares with us how using music as a medium can teach a student important life skills and provide a way for the whole family to come together.
The Metropolitan Youth Orchestra: More than Music
The Metropolitan Youth Orchestra (MYO) is a family and youth development program of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra that serves over 200 students and their parents. We have 6 ensembles from beginner to advance, serving kids ages 5 – 18. MYO is a multi-year commitment where students are asked to essentially grow up in the program and stay with us until they graduate from high school. We’re not a traditional youth orchestra program as we use music as the vehicle to discourage at-risk behaviors, develop life skills, and keep kids committed to staying in school. Music is still our focus but we use it as a means to develop young people into successful adults. We accomplish this through the rehearsal and performance of music, parent engagement, utilization of community partners, and college readiness initiatives.
MYO instills confidence and pride in a child, opens doors, and gives them skills to navigate the world. But what makes us different is that we take that entire family on the same journey as the child. We’re the only program in the country that engages the whole family, with parents and students playing together in lessons, practicing at home, performing together on stage and volunteering.
I have personally seen MYO transform families–giving them stability, helping them to become more organized and develop deeper bonds. Because the parent and student can speak a common language through music, our families have an increase in everyday communication amongst each other. In our little community you will see parents and students carpooling to lessons, donating or handing down recital clothes, organizing play dates, or sharing a meal together before rehearsals. Our students and families develop bonds that last long after they graduate from the program. Many of our students have lifelong friendships with other MYO graduates. I have also seen groups of MYO parents get together to have lunch long after their children have graduated from the program.
In MYO, we know that students from all walks of life need support, especially through the middle school and high school years. We take the time to get to know our students and families outside of music. What books do they like to read? What’s their favorite movie? What do they want to study in college? MYO caters to the whole child because we know that children feel safe, loved and are more likely to be successful when they are seen and heard by a caring adult.
We provide information on the college admissions process through guest speakers from various institutions and take students to local campuses for college visits. We also bring in guest speakers so families can learn more on child development, parenting, and financial planning. We recently rolled out a new initiative through Marion County Promise for all of our participants. Parents are able to open 529 College Savings Accounts for MYO students and receive matching funds as long as they stay in the program.
We couldn’t do this without our teaching artists and staff who embody the 6 characteristics needed to make our program successful. Our teachers are self directed go-getters, passionate about helping kids succeed, proactive communicators, life-long learners, accountable to shared goals and play and practice their instruments regularly. Many of our teachers are former graduates of the program, including myself! For the past 8 years MYO has had 100% high school graduation rate with all of its seniors going on to some form of post secondary education.
To learn more about the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra go here. Follow MYO on Facebook here, and learn more about other community and education initiatives from the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra here.