BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Musician Paige Hoffman, 17, has her eyes set on a big stage. She’s writing a musical, has several compositions under her belt, and will have a world premiere one of those pieces in April. She hopes it will all lead her to a career in musical theater.
However, music hasn’t always been part of her life. When she started out, it might as well have been a foreign language.
“My family’s not a musical family, so none of us had any idea what we were doing at all,” said Hoffman.
That all changed when Paige’s mom, Amy, enrolled her into Kids’ Orchestra in Baton Rouge at the age of 8.
Kids’ Orchestra is a unique after school program that puts instruments into the hands of kids across East Baton Rouge Parish. After helping with homework and providing a snack, instructors immerse kids into the world of music with lessons and performances. During the pandemic, they took those lessons virtually, providing instruction over video.
But the lessons go beyond learning notes and scales. Each child must take care of his or her instrument at home, whether that instrument is a flute, a cello, or a drum set. In fact, kids have to prove they are ready to keep an instrument at home by showing they can properly disassemble, store, and even clean the instrument if needed.
The program’s executive director Jody Hanet says that step teaches kids responsibility. Teaching them how to play the instrument of their choice, says Hanet, gives kids a sense of pride that they have a skill at which they can excel.
“We are using the power of music to help children be confident and be leaders,” said Hanet. “Music hits the soul, and children should have that opportunity to feel what it feels like to be moved by music and have that have that opportunity to express themselves.”
Hanet says kids also get to interact with peers from across the parish, uniting them across schools through music. She says they see both emotional and social growth in their students.
The development of those skills is what drew Hoffman’s family to the program in the first place.
“Just to watch her be self-motivated,” said Hoffman’s mom Amy. “I saw her self-confidence grow, and more importantly, or just as important as those things, I saw the work ethic.”
Hoffman’s family also saw brand new doors open because of her newfound passion. She’s been asked to play for her school and church and join programs that helped her hobby bloom and change her life direction. Now a junior in high school, Hoffman hopes to study musical composition in college.
“I honestly wonder if I would be the same person I am today if it wasn’t for my time at Kids’ Orchestra,” said Hoffman.
Right now, Kids’ Orchestra is only in East Baton Rouge Parish, but the program dreams of growing statewide. Tuition costs are based on a family’s ability to pay to ensure that every child can have access, and the instruments are all provided by the program.
In order to accept more students and to keep the program going, Kids’ Orchestra is asking for the community’s support. WAFB is proud to partner with Kids’ Orchestra for their Play it Forward campaign where you can donate funds or even old instruments to help keep the music alive. Learn more about that campaign at https://kidsorchestra.org/
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