Student Mentors Share Their Love of Music
On Tuesdays after school, a group of middle and high school students volunteer their time and share their passion for classical music while mentoring elementary students at Dogwood Elementary School.
During a recent visit to Dogwood, a few dozen mentors and mentees were collaborating in the cafeteria, in small subgroups for art, piano, and strings. The room was filled with lively sounds from the instruments, layered with laughs and words of encouragement from mentees.
“Art is my favorite, because I make things for my family and that I can keep,” said one of the mentees when asked about the program. In addition to being musically gifted, some of the student mentors are bilingual and able to teach English language learners. “I love music and thought it was important that everyone gets the chance to play music,” said a mentee who was working one-on-one with a violin student learning English.
Rewind to November 2021, before the inception of ITZArt4you, when sisters Ella and Emma appeared on NPR’S From the Top (FTT) Show. FTT is a non-profit organization dedicated to celebrating the stories, talents, and character of young classically-trained musicians. This enriching experience led them to performing at Dogwood as part of an Instagram takeover for WETA’s Classical Radio Station, highlighting their lives as young classical musicians. Playing as a piano and violin duo, the sisters noticed the Dogwood students were clearly intrigued by the music.
Then the girls started thinking; they decided that they wanted to bring Dogwood students music and art on a weekly basis. The sisters began recruiting their friends from music class to join their initiative and reached out to Dogwood Elementary School Principal Kate Beckner to pitch their idea of providing free lessons. Principal Beckner loved the idea, and the planning began.
During the summer leading up to the 2022-23 school year, Ella and Emma went into overdrive. They partnered with FCPS teachers to help form music and art curriculums and train mentors on how to teach and engage with the mentees in a fun way. They also created an Amazon wish list that included keyboards, art supplies, and music books. For Principal Beckner, the value of the program is in students inspiring others by sharing their gifts and talents. “It’s beautiful to see students sharing their blessings with younger students,” she says.
During ITZArt4you’s fall 2022 session, there were 15 mentors and between 30-35 mentees who consistently attended their lessons. Over winter break, the girls recruited and trained more mentors. Another 22 were ready in January 2023.
More recently, ITZArt4you became a 501c3 nonprofit organization.