At The Settlement Home, we work to partner our kiddos with mentors and expose them to new and different things. One such partnership is with Kids In A New Groove (KING). We chatted recently with the folks at KING and the Julie, the Music Mentor who volunteers through KING at The Home. They have great things to say about kiddos and music, as well as our special partnership. Read on for more!
SH: Tell us about Kids In A New Groove.
KING: Since 2009, Kids In A New Groove (KING) has provided a vital service to central Texas youth in foster care by furnishing them with musical instruments and facilitating weekly one-on-one music mentorship from Austin-area musicians. We at KING believe that music is a shelter in times of hardship, a tool of empowerment and an unmatched means of expressing one’s truest self. Our mission is to make a lasting impact in the lives of youth in foster care by providing them with a consistent, encouraging relationship with an adult mentor and to instill in them the sense of self-confidence, self-worth and self-determination that comes from learning to play a musical instrument.
Our primary program at KING is our Mentoring through Music program, which currently provides 133 youth in foster care in the greater Austin area with a loaned instrument of their choice and consistent, weekly one-on-one music lessons from one of our 65 passionate Music Mentors. Children in the foster care system may change homes as many as six times before they age out of care, but our Music Mentors follow their students to each new placement, providing the stability necessary for the student-mentor relationship to create a lasting impact in the life of the child.
SH: Tell readers about the partnership between KING and The Settlement Home.
KING: KING has a valuable partnership with The Settlement Home that strengthens both our program and what The Home has to offer its residents. We serve anywhere from five to eight girls with piano, voice, guitar and violin lessons. Our Music Mentors come to The Home each week to provide music lessons. It is through these lessons that the Music Mentors are able to develop individual relationships with each of their students. This relationship was a natural fit for our organization. Our partnership allows us to reach even more youth in foster care at a time when they need it the most.
The girls also have the opportunity to participate in student workshops and performance opportunities at KING events or within the community.
SH: Why is this work important to your organization?
KING is the only program to exclusively reach youth in foster care through in-home, private music lessons and mentorship. Because youth in foster care often lack consistent, stable housing and may have to change schools several times throughout their time in care, it is extremely difficult for them to participate in after school music programs or to take private music lessons. More often than not, they simply have no access to these kinds of opportunities. KING removes these barriers by bringing the program directly to the student and providing them with a high quality instrument with which to learn and practice their developing skills. Our Music Mentors travel to students’ homes, following students to each new placement. Not only does this remove any transportation issues for the students, but it also creates a stable relationship that students come to rely on in their otherwise unstable lives.
SH: What kind of impact does volunteering have on your Music Mentors?
KING Music Mentors have the unique opportunity to provide mentorship through their love of music. They are able to give back to our students in a meaningful and authentic way. Music is powerful. Many of our mentors have a deep understanding of how music has helped them through difficult times and emotions, and how impactful that can be. Music is their vehicle to connect and develop authentic relationships with their students, and in turn, opens the doors to their own growth and life purpose.
SH: What kind of impact do you hope that your organization can make on our kids?
KING sees the importance of consistency and stability for youth in foster care and seeks to provide a vital service to The Settlement Home and our community. Through music lessons, KING Music Mentors build upon the therapeutic services already being offered at The Home, to create an open, healthy outlet for the girls. KING’s Music Mentors serve as positive role models and teach the girls how to set and achieve goals, how to build an appropriate relationship with an adult and how to be self-disciplined and responsible. Over time, the mentor/student relationship encourages the girls to develop a trusting relationship with a caring, responsible adult, positively influencing their lives over the long-term.
SH: Tell us a little about you.
Hi! I’m Julie, and I’m a musician, director, and teacher. I’ve been a music mentor at Settlement for over five years through an organization called Kids In a New Groove. I founded One Ounce Opera, where our mission is to re-imagine opera in unexpected spaces, and nurture a private voice and piano studio in Central Austin. My husband and I have two rescue pups, and both graduated high school in Amarillo, Texas. I’ve been in Austin officially for a decade, and lived and studied in Chicago, Denver, and DFW.
SH: What’s your favorite part of being a volunteer? Why is volunteering important to you?
Julie: Seeing students “get it.” That moment when they realize,”OMG, I just played that!” or “Um, was that my voice?” I love that moment when they realize music is something they can carry with them no matter what, for the rest of their lives. It’s theirs. The power of their creative mind. Their spirits, their feelings, their outlet. I’ve witnessed music as a transformative element in the lives of these kids, and I am forever changed by it.
SH: How would you describe your role as a volunteer for KING?
Julie: As a music mentor, essentially I’m a communicator and guide for musical exploration and growth. Each week, I meet my girls one-on-one for 30 minute voice, piano, or guitar lessons.
SH: What advice do you have for other volunteers?
Julie: Stay curious and flexible. Do what you’re able when you are able, knowing you did your best.
SH: What is your favorite quote?
Julie: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” – David Viscott
SH: What inspires you?
Julie: I’l take my own advice — staying curious. Digging deeper, either into a piece of music or theater, or a really good book. Watching people do their thing, and do it well.