A performance with the Baltimore School for the Arts orchestra, conducted by “Miss Marin,” inspired the current OrchKids class to commit to an arduous summer program.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging scans reveal that musicians possess signifi cantly more information-processing “gray matter” than nonmusicians, according to neurologist Solomon Snyder. And, thanks to the “whole-brain effort that music requires” they enjoy a thicker corpus callosum, “the fi brous bridge that links and coordinates the left and right hemispheres of the brain.” Intensive music training has also been correlated with “improved memory, geometric skills and even reading.” This is precisely the idea behind OrchKids, a program created by Marin Alsop, Conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, who used $100,000 of her $500,000 MacArthur Foundation Grant as seed money to create a pilot program designed to transform the lives of children in one of Baltimore, Maryland’s poorest neighborhoods. Inspired by a similar program in Venezuela, El Sistema, OrchKids introduces students to musical instruments, provides them with CDs and CD players, and takes them on fi eld trips to libraries and music halls. Energizing the six- and seven-year-olds musically is only part of the initiative. A broader aim is using music as a vehicle for social change, says OrchKids Coordinator Nick Skinner. “We want them to see there’s a lot of Baltimore out there besides the Harlem Park neighborhood they know.” As they grow older, the students will mentor younger children; and all of them will become part of an ensemble— “part of something greater than themselves,” in the words of co-leader Dan Trahey. A performance with the Baltimore School for the Arts orchestra, conducted by “Miss Marin,” inspired the current OrchKids class to commit to an arduous summer program.

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