Advertisement
  1. Tampa

Florida Orchestra, Prodigy gain added dollars for violin lessons

Amaya Akbar, 10, and Ky’lee Barnes, 7, prepare for a recent violin lesson at the Cyrus Greene Community Center. Both students receive lessons thanks to a partnership between the Florida Orchestra and the University Area Community Development Center’s Prodigy Program. KENYA WOODARD | Special to the Times
Published Dec. 14, 2018

EAST TAMPA — Outside the Cyrus Green Community Center, cars often ride past with hip-hop blasting from the speakers.

But inside the building, a different genre of music is catching on with youngsters like Amaya Akbar.

Amaya, 10, is already a talented musician who has experience playing the guitar and drums.

Recently, she's taken up a third instrument, the violin. It's not as exciting as the drums — which Amaya likes because they are "loud" — but she's found at least one thing she likes about the string instrument.

"I like the sounds of the 'D' string," she said. "It has a lower pitch."

Makiah Taylor, 10, however, loves the violin.

"My favorite part is learning new songs," she said. "We play songs that some people don't really listen to. It makes me feel that it's going to make them listen even more."

Twice a week after school, Amaya and Makiah join several other students in a large classroom at the center to get violin lessons directly from some of the best musicians in the bay area thanks to a ground-breaking partnership between The Florida Orchestra and the University Area Community Development Corporation's after-school cultural arts program, Prodigy.

Hillsborough County funds the program and the county commission recently approved an additional $100,000 to extend and expand the lessons and other musical experiences to children who might otherwise not have the opportunity.

The additional funding will cover instrument rental and other class supplies, and allow the orchestra to hire a violin instructor and a part-time coordinator dedicated to the partnership.

The grant will continue to fund a program is part of the orchestra's mission to increase community engagement.

The UACDC has a similar objective through Prodigy, which offers underserved youth a plethora of activities and courses at a number of sites throughout the county. Art, break dancing and theater are popular. The violin classes could catch just as quickly thanks to the enthusiasm from Amaya and other students, said Prodigy director Mike Trepper.

"The majority of our kids are not artists," he said. "But through skills develop and mentorship, they do find a niche. And when young people find something they are good at, their whole world expands."

The partnership began over the summer when the orchestra taught group violin classes twice a week to Prodigy kids at Roy Haynes Recreation Center in Tampa – a first for both organizations. The orchestra also performed chamber concerts, hosted Prodigy students and families at a TFO Masterworks concert at the Straz Center and offered the Instrument Petting Zoo at various venues, giving students the opportunity to see, touch and play instruments.

The free violin lessons continued at Roy Haynes this fall and expanded to Cyrus Greene.

In a recent class, the gathering is smaller than usual but that's no bother for instructor Bennett Astrove. He gingerly goes over music scales with Amaya and three other students and then shifts into teaching them Rocket March, a three-part song.

When Ky'lee Barnes, 7, is having difficulty with parts of the latter, Amaya – who's a quick study – steps in to assist.

"If I help others, they'll get better," she said. "I help them catch on so we can move faster."

In addition to violin, students also are taught life lessons patience, respect, communication, focus/effort — or the Four Responsibilities, as Astrove calls them.

A splash of discipline and structure — students cannot miss more than two classes unexcused and must set up and break down their own equipment – also are doled out.

Those characteristics are necessary to learn how to play the violin as well as work with other musicians as a team, he said.

Much of what the students learn on the instrument and in class applies to real life, said instructor Michelle Painter.

"It's sort of a game of patience, which is a skill that everyone needs," she said. (Learning the violin) requires you to slow down. That's sort of the challenging part of it at first."

The 10-week program culminates with a recital where the students can show off what they've learned. And while the violin may not be her favorite, learning how to play it has opened Amaya to another string instrument.

"I want to learn how to play the piano," she said.

Contact Kenya Woodard at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor appears at a September forum on the Equal Rights Amendment at the Centre Club of Tampa. Her first budget was unanimously approved 7-0 by City Council. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Octavio Jones
    The mayor made some concessions in her $1.04 billion budget, especially to council member Orlando Gudes’ demands for East Tampa.
  2. John Jonchuck returned to a Pinellas County courtroom last month to attend a hearing about whether he was entitled to a new trial. A judge on Tuesday ruled that he is not. SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    Jonchuck was convicted of first-degree murder in April. He dropped his 5-year-old daughter, Phoebe Jonchuck, off a bridge in 2015.
  3. Watermans Crossing apartments at 4515 N. Rome Avenue in Tampa. Westside Capital Group
    Jakub Hejl discovered the Tampa Bay area while studying at IMG Academy.
  4. Eboni Wiley, left, testifies Monday in the murder trial of ex-boyfriend Granville Ritchie. Wiley was supposed to be caring for 9-year-old Felecia Williams the day the girl disappeared. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Eboni Wiley testifies that she’s telling the truth now about events surrounding the 2014 disappearance of Felecia Williams.
  5. Tampa police found Donta Allen, 33, in the area of E Palifox Street near N 44th Street at about 9 p.m. Sunday. He was suffering from upper body trauma and died later in a hospital. [TAMPA POLICE DEPARTMENT]  |  Tampa Police Department
    Police are seeking information from anyone who may have seen Donta Allen, 33, on Sunday night near the Tampa office center.
  6. Old Augusta bricks pave the road on West Bay Street in the Spanishtown Creek section of Hyde Park. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Times
    The neighborhood association wants the city to promise via an ordinance to not remove their community’s historic street bricks.
  7. A study found that two of the worst intersections in the country for running red lights are in the Tampa Bay area. Tampa Bay Times
    Two intersections are among the worst for running red lights
  8. Eboni Wiley, left, testifies at the trial of her ex-boyfriend Granville Ritchie who is accused of raping and killing 9-year-old Felecia Williams in 2014. Wiley led the girl to Ritchie, according to the state. Hillsborough Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Johnson, right, questions Wiley in a Hillsborough County Courtroom.Octavi OCTAVIO JONES  |  Octavio Jones
    Eboni Wiley was a friend of Felecia Williams’ family. She told jurors how she brought the girl to the man standing trial for raping and killing the 9-year-old.
  9. A homeless Vietnam War veteran in Clearwater answers questions for a Pinellas County homeless survey. A shortage of affordable housing is considered a major cause of homelessness among vets in the Tampa Bay area. [Times files]
    Local agency leaders called on members of Congress to increase national affordable housing options as a solution to veteran homelessness
  10. Holland America says the cruise ship Veendam, shown here at the dock in Tampa in 2005, will return to Port Tampa Bay from November 2020 through April 2021. (Times files) GOETHE, THOMAS M.  |  St. Petersburg Times
    The cruise line dropped Tampa in the spring, but said it might be back.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement