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Using music to inspire young minds

Posted on November 11, 2017 by Sonoma Valley Sun


Music instructor Rebecca King works with Dunbar School student Bryan Vasquez Torres
Music instructor Rebecca King works with Dunbar School student Bryan Vasquez Torres

An innovative music program, Keys of Inspiration, was launched this fall at Sassarini and Dunbar Elementary Schools. The Sun’s Sarah Ford spoke to the program’s Piano Instructor, Rebecca King, to find out more about it.

Tell me a little bit about the Keys of Inspiration program.

It consists of a piano lab at Dunbar, and one at Sassarini, each with 31 Roland keyboards. I teach 2nd and 3rd graders at both schools. Some 1st grade students come, because one class at Dunbar has both 1st and 2nd graders.

I understand it is fully funded through a foundation founded by a pianist.

Yes, it’s funded through the Lang Lang International Music Foundation, founded by internationally known touring pianist Lang Lang. He’s been contributing to music education and has supported children worldwide for about a decade now. The foundation aims to cultivate tomorrow’s top pianists, champion music education at the forefront of technology, and build a young audience by providing them with live musical experiences. The foundation, headquartered in New York City, has implemented programs in North America, Europe, and Asia. In 2015 it was awarded an ECHO Klassik special prize. Lang Lang was designated a “Messenger of Peace” by the UN Secretary General in 2013 for his focus on global education. He also currently serves on the Weill Music Institute Advisory Committee as part of Carnegie Hall’s educational program and is the youngest member of Carnegie Hall’s Artistic Advisory Board.

Tell me about your background.

I started playing the piano when I was five, and took piano lessons all the way through college. I teach classroom music and beginning band for the school district, but I also play the piano in a folk music trio, playing for dances throughout the United States and England. My solo piano CD, “Nearer and Farther,” is available on iTunes.

How does the foundation support your work in the labs?

The foundation gives support, ideas, and teaching tips. They also give a weeklong training in New York, at Carnegie Hall, which I’d like to attend some day.

What are some of the positive effects that music, and playing piano, have on children?

The Keys of Inspiration classroom definitely provides students with a safe, creative outlet in school and gives them a chance to build self-confidence, develop a drive for excellence, and a sense of achievement. It is also great for their brains!

Are you seeing some of these effects?

I love it when I see the “lights come on” and they start to understand how to do it. The students definitely feel great when they can play a song, and they love to share it.

Actually, most of the kids have never played an instrument before.

What has the response been?

Most of the kids really like it! A few of the kids feel like they can’t do it, but I’m still working on them. We have students joining us from the developmentally handicapped class at Dunbar, and one boy was able to play our first song for the class. It taught me to never give up on anyone.

Anything else you would like to add?

This whole program is truly amazing and I’m so thankful to be a part of it. My principals, Andrew Ryan at Sassarini and Jillian Beall at Dunbar, have been helpful and supportive, and especially Loyal Carlon at the District office.


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