by Jackson Sveen

HUNTERSVILLE – Is your old saxophone or flute from high school band building dust in the attic?

Imagine the potential in that old instrument; What a hungry young mind could do with it if just given the chance.

S new nonprofit called MusicalMinds needs donated instruments to put them in the welcoming hands of Lake Norman area children.

MusicalMinds was founded by members of the Lake Norman Kiwanis Club with the goal of inspiring social change through classical music instruction.

The goal is not to turn these children into musical superstars, said Susie Shoman, executive director of MusicalMinds. It is, however, to teach children essential social skills, including respect, patience, discipline and teamwork.

The after-school program serves 25 Blythe Elementary School first- and third- graders.

Almost 50 percent of Blythe’s students live below the poverty line, according to Principal Patricia Johanson.

“Which often times means they don’t have access to music programs,” she said. “Students learn the responsibility of taking care of instruments, going to practice several times a week and persevering because learning a new instrument is difficult. They’ll have to stick with that and we want that to carry over to the classroom.”

Students meet 3-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday, using the first 45 minutes to do homework. The remainder of the time is spent playing music-related games and learning to follow rhythms on buckets using drumsticks donated by Guitar Center.

MusicalMinds is hoping to have its own orchestra one day, so the children will need more than buckets to play.

“We are trying to do all we can to make sure they grow as musicians, students and people,” said Amanda Preston, Musical-Minds’ production and promotion assistant.”

It began after Lake Norman Kiwanis Club member Russ Smith, watched a CBS “60 Minutes” feature on El Sistema, a music program for underprivileged children in Venezuela.

Dr. Jose Antonio Abreu started El Sistema in Venezuela more than 30 years ago and it has turned hundreds of thousands of children into talented musicians and, more importantly, hardworking members of society.

“El Sistema is the model MusicalMinds has chosen to follow because it’s a holistic program,” Shoman said. “It’s creating social change through music.”

MusicalMinds held its first class on Nov. 12, and parents and teachers are saying they have already noticed changes in the children’s behaviors.

“(Parents) are coming in and talking about how their child has changed,” Shoman saod. “We had a teacher come in the other day and say, I don’t know what you are doing with this child, but he’s a whole lot better in class.”

The program costs about $3,000 per year per child.

Want to learn more?

Visit www.musicalmindsnc.org to learn more about the program.

Email Shoman at susie@musicalminds.org to find out how to  volunteer.