Teaching the Heart To Play Music


California Music Preparatory Academy could fulfill its mission of rigorously training youth in chamber music performance without a nod to any social benefit. However, the “About Us” page on the academy’s website indicates Cal Music Prep is about more than music:

“Beyond providing children with critical thinking and artistic skills, we provide our students opportunities to volunteer in their communities and perform in numerous outreach concerts. CalMusicPrep aims to empower, enrich, and equip each child with tools necessary to become successful in all areas of musical and personal development.”

Does their mission sound some familiar? Take Midpen’s mission, for instance: “To inform, inspire and empower people to speak and act on behalf of their communities, to use television and the internet to create and distribute programs that promote and celebrate individual expression, local achievements, education, cultural exchange, arts appreciation and civic engagement.”

How does Cal Music Prep put the public benefit part of their mission into practice? By performing for audiences and in places for free where the cost of admission is homelessness, hunger or infirmity. Tapping a child’s natural gift for music and transforming that into a heart for service is part of Cal Music Prep’s secret to success. By sharing their artistry, these young artists become ambassadors of hope. They learn that performing music is more than striving for excellence but it is in the sharing of their unique gift that the gift becomes meaningful.

Twila and John Harrison, the producers of Studio 32, have a similar mission. Produced in our studio with Midpen’s trained volunteers, Studio 32 showcases local musical talent with an added touch of inspiration. When the credits roll, Twila and John hope the viewers not only will have been entertained but they will have experienced something special about our community and feel inspired. Artists from Cal Music Prep were guests on the most recent episode and fulfilled all our missions by playing for us!

On a chance visit to El Camino Hospital, MC Producer John Harrison followed the sounds of eerily beautiful music down the halls to the lobby. He joined patients, staff and visitors in a pop up performance. He ended up staying beyond his time. He learned that the performers were part of a school with a special mission to give youth valuable performance experience while sharing their gift at unusual concert venues. John invited the school to bring some of their chamber players onto the set of Studio 32 and tape a show. Under the musical direction of world renowned cellist Jonathan Koh, our studio crew was treated to a half hour of pure musical joy.

Samuel Kim, who will be attending Washington University in the Fall, spoke of his time at CalMusicPrep: “My most memorable moment was when I organized the Sunnyvale Atria senior home performance. It was extremely rewarding to see the look of enjoyment on the seniors’ faces as our musicians performed. Moments like these reminded me why I play music. Chamber music has helped me immensely to realize that the point of music should be to share it with others.”

Another senior Anna Yang who will be attending Stanford this Fall, said, “Since I grew up playing solo repertoire, the first few times I played in a group, everything was about me; CalMusicPrep helped me learn that the success of our group depended on us.”

Cal Music Prep is relatively young. Founded in 2015, the school is still building its base and hoping to attract not only students but community leaders to help grow their programs. Currently they are unable to offer scholarships to students, but they plan to provide scholarships when they have a solid foundation from which to grow.

If any community organization would like to have the Cal Music Prep students perform for them, please contact Grace Choi, Director of Operations at gchoi@calmusicprep.org. Their preferred venues are hospitals, senior centers, homeless shelters, churches and community centers, but they are open to suggestion.

Written by Becky Sanders and Twila Harrison

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