2 women work to diversify access to music in Wilmington

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Christina Brier has described music as stability in her life. No matter what happened in her childhood, she could always turn to her harp and find solace there.

Now, Brier and his childhood friend Linda Estep are trying to bring that same comfort and joy to the children of Wilmington through their Music is Life program.

Estep and Brier opened the Brooklyn Arts Music Academy in Wilmington in 2018, and through it they launched the Music is Life program, providing free music lessons to 280 preschoolers.

“The aim of the program is to try to help children improve their resilience skills. So many children in our community had many negative childhood experiences,” Brier said. “While we can’t fix all of those things, we can step into the school day and bring that joy and safety and security to them.”

The Music is Life program is in partnership with Dorothy B. Johnson Pre-K, giving students who might not otherwise have the opportunity a chance to learn to play musical instruments and participate in singing, dancing and games. The main objective of the program is to teach students resilience and problem-solving skills by learning to play the harp or the violin.

It focuses on socio-emotional growth, physical, cognitive and language development in children aged three to five. And the women leaders say they see the impact of the program on the children they work with.

“It’s a very happy and bright way to enhance those things and really engage kids’ brains,” Brier said.

Estep said that for many children they work with in preschool, music class is where they feel most calm. She described a child in the Exceptional Children’s Program who went from numerous behavioral issues to being the most relaxed his teachers had ever seen when the music started. She said it’s stories like these that show why music education is “imperative for healthy living”.

Music is an essential part of learning and development, Estep said, and helps reduce achievement gaps and stimulate learning and creativity.

The program also hosted a concert for family and friends of preschoolers on April 29, giving students the chance to share with loved ones what they had learned in their music lessons.

Now, Brooklyn Arts Music Academy (BAMA) is partnering with organizations in the Wilmington area to continue to expand the Music is Life program to continue to provide students with the opportunity to learn instruments and get involved in the music.

The women said one of their goals when BAMA opened in 2018 was to “diversify classical music” in Wilmington, and Brier said there was no better time to start learning. an instrument only at a young age.

“Part of our dream when we started school, we noticed that most of the families that were taking private lessons weren’t families of color,” she said. “We were wondering how can we grow and make this a more equitable community?”

Next year, 10 students involved in the Music is Life program will receive a scholarship to continue taking music lessons to learn how to play an instrument such as piano, harp, violin, etc. The scholarships, provided by the Landfall Foundation, help students pay for weekly tuition, instrument rental and other associated costs, which Estep says can add up to around $1,500 a year – something that would otherwise may not be affordable for children living in low-income areas. from the city.

BAMA also has several other organizations that sponsor scholarships and donate to the organization, including the Wilmington Rotary Club, Women’s Impact Network of New Hanover County, Thursday Morning Music Club, Linda and Reid Murchison Foundation , etc.

Estep and Brier are also working to expand the program to Mary W. Howe Pre-K, allowing BAMA to reach more than 450 children in downtown Wilmington neighborhoods.

“(Music is) a way to express yourself without harming yourself,” Estep said. “It connects you to people, and the more we can connect to other human beings, the more understanding we have, the more empathy we have, the broader your horizons are.”

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