Youth music lesson scholarship program honored for impact

GOSHEN, Ind. — A program that helps Elkhart County children of all income levels receive professional music lessons has received a 2008 Indiana Youth Investment Award and a $5,000 check from the Indiana Youth Institute (IYI).

The Goshen College Music Center’s Acorn Scholarship program has provided more than 400 awards totaling $75,000 in scholarships to 170 children from 113 area families since its sliding-scale system was implemented in 2003.

“While faculty and students at Goshen College are giving the lessons and exposing the kids to the joy of music, they also are giving the kids hope that through hard work they can some day return to a college campus in pursuit of their educational dreams,” said IYI President and CEO Bill Stanczykiewicz.

The Acorn Scholarship program is an offshoot of Goshen College’s Community School of the Arts (CSA), which reaches into the community by providing music lessons to local elementary, middle and high school students.

However, low-income students who cannot afford to pay the full price for music lessons are offered Acorn Scholarships so that they can pay on a sliding-scale, with some paying as little as $1 per lesson. All children in the CSA program are invited to perform in recitals at the Music Center and in other venues throughout the local community. All the while, many of the kids are being exposed to a college campus for the first time.

“The benefits of music are multidimensional. They occur at so many levels,” said Brian Wiebe, the Music Center’s executive director. “In addition to the brain development and academic success that result from music instruction, music also teaches you how to express your emotions, while also teaching discipline and persistence.”

“Plus, it’s just fun,” Wiebe continued. “The lessons, the recitals, the concerts — it’s just fun to teach music to children and watch them learn and watch them enjoy it.”

In addition to lessons on many instruments, the students can participate in a string orchestra or a choir, and the Music Center also offers piano lessons to students with special needs.

And those families are noticing. Debra Kauffman, CSA director, tells the story of one dad who lost his job in the county’s slumping RV industry. When Kauffman asked how to help his family, the dad said, “Just keep giving music lessons to my kids. It’s one thing in their lives that doesn’t have to change.”

The Goshen College Music Center’s Acorn Scholarships program is one of 10 recipients of a 2008 Indiana Youth Investment Award and was selected from more than 160 applicants. In addition to the $5,000 check, award winners will receive free admission to the Indiana Youth Institute’s 2008 Kids Count in Indiana Conference, Dec. 2 and 3.

Goshen College News Bureau Director Jodi H. Beyeler