After the Table

Trumpets herald impact of Acting Up award for aspiring young musicians

Pictured above: Students in the Community Band program of the Hyde Park Youth Symphony and Progressive Beulah Pentecostal Church receive instruction on brass instruments during an after-school session.

By David Rudd | May 4, 2018

Just before an orchestra performs, the audience will hear a collision of sounds as each musician tunes his or her instrument, loosens the body and warms up in preparation for the pending performance. If you’d never seen such preparation, you might wonder how all of these different, individual sounds could come together to create wonderful music.

Well, it was kind of like that at the Hyde Park Youth Symphony’s first On the Table discussion.  The community organizations all shared a common commitment to youth development. But they each had their own mission, their own vision for success. Each had a laser focus on their own needs and challenges. But the On the Table discussion was transformative.

“Small arts organizations and nonprofits are often so dedicated to their missions that we struggle to find unstructured creative time with community partners,” said Matthew Sheppard, music director for the Hyde Park Youth Symphony (HPYS). “Through On the Table, we were able to creatively brainstorm with colleagues during our meeting, rather than focusing solely on the next event or logistics. This type of unstructured time is what allows us to dream big.”

At its 2017 On the Table event, the youth organization wanted to convene a discussion about building connections to better serve children on the South Side. Participants came from a diverse cross-section of community nonprofits, multiple music education groups, representatives from local churches and organizations focused on after-school programs, Matthew said.

“Though most of us are aware of each other’s impact in the community, it’s rare for us to have a chance to actually sit down with such a wide ranging group to exchange cross-curricular ideas,” he added.

One of the contributors at the discussion was Progressive Beulah Pentecostal Church, which is located in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood. The youth symphony had been introduced to the church by a mutual friend, so they knew they shared an interest in a music education program for neighborhood youngsters, Matthew said, adding: “In sitting down with Progressive Beulah during On the Table, we were able to help bring hazy ideas and visions into sharper focus.”

Pictured above: Instructor Melissa Anderson works with Tessa, an aspiring trumpet player.

That sharper focus led to the decision to apply for an Acting Up award from The Chicago Community Trust. The $1,000 award, received in the summer of 2017, helped with the purchase of supplies like books and music stands. More importantly, it helped to fund time with music teachers for the Community Band program. The program is run jointly by HPYS and Progressive Beulah. It includes students from schools around the church, and it teaches youngsters who have had no previous experience with brass instruments.

“With the resources provided by the award,” Matthew said, “students could learn both the notes and the technique of playing brass instruments.”

Like a soaring orchestral piece, this program may start small, but its music will get larger and fill the ears of more children and families, Matthew said.

He added: “With the successful launch of this first community band, we are looking at opportunities to begin other similar programs throughout the community with different partners.”