COR principles: ‘All play, none pay’ is guiding philosophy of the Cincinnati Out Reach music program | Arts & Culture
Story, photos and video by Chelsea Gilbertson
For some, music is a career; for others, a hobby. For many, music is a source of pure entertainment.
The people behind the Cincinnati Out Reach (COR) Music Project see music as a way to change young peoples’ lives.
COR is as a free after-school program for high school students who lack the opportunity, as well as the equipment and knowledge, to perform in an orchestra or choir setting.
Directors Deron Hall and Louisa Shepherd, both graduate students at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), and non-profit specialist Anjelica Hardin founded COR in December 2011.
“I am a musician by trade,” said Hall, who is working toward his master’s degree at CCM. “But one of the things that is very important to me is giving back to the community. COR Music Project aligns my professional arena with my personal arena as far as the things I am most interested in. I have a really strong interest in using the arts to change lives.”
Hall, Shepherd and Hardin drew their inspiration for COR from the EL Sistema – “the system” – Venezuela’s National Network of Youth and Children Orchestras. EL Sistema embraces the idea of changing children’s lives, especially those from poor economic backgrounds, through the discipline of orchestra music training. The model has been shared in school systems worldwide since its inception more than 30 years ago.
“There are so many people (in Cincinnati) who are afflicted by poverty,” Hardin said. “A music education program is something that is not even a reality for most of these students and families. So, with COR Music Project, we really are giving them the opportunity to have access to something and to be able to afford something that will change the trajectory of their lives.”
COR has a simple philosophy: all play, none pay. The program gives underserved students the opportunity to take music lessons without the high cost of doing so. The organization relies heavily on donations and grants for the students’ training and instruments.
The students are offered a wide variety of ways to express their musical interests. CCM graduate students act as teaching artists, providing lessons in vocals, percussion and other instruments, like the flute, clarinet and saxophone.
Recently COR was invited to give lessons at Woodward Career Technical High School in theBond Hill neighborhood of Cincinnati. The instructors practiced with 14- to 16-year-old students, Monday through Friday, for one hour a day.
Woodward Assistant Principal Samuel Yates Jr. was impressed. “I think that COR Music Project is a good tool that can bring college students in to see how kids learn. It’s a great opportunity to build relationships with the students,” he said.
“Most schools today don’t have music (programs),” Yates said. “So this is the perfect opportunity for college students to build a program and inspire our students to maybe one day want to go to college. That is why we were willing to put some pieces together here so that the kids could embrace this opportunity to expand their musical talents and their abilities on a different level.”
The high school youth saw the benefits. “Music has helped me get through a lot,” said Briana Spikes, a freshman at Woodward. “In my family, everyone either plays an instrument or sings. So for me, it helps me calm down and relax, while allowing me to connect with my family more.”
COR eliminates many of the obstacles that stand between youth and a music education. All that is needed from them is the determination to learn.
“Music can change lives. Music can enrich lives,” Hall said.
Chelsea Gilbertson is a journalism student at the University of Cincinnati and on the staff of the department's New Media Bureau.