Great news for one of The Florida Orchestra’s most uplifting community partnerships: Hillsborough County Commissioners have approved a 50 percent funding increase to support more free violin lessons provided through a partnership between TFO and University Area CDC’s Prodigy® Cultural Arts Program. The continuing partnership offers the lessons and other musical experiences to children who might not have the opportunity any other way.
Thanks to the new $150,000 grant — up from $100,000 last year — the partnership will provide more sites to reach more students starting this summer. Current sites include Roy Haynes Community Center, Thonotosassa Recreation Center, Gardenville Recreation Center and Tampa Metropolitan Youth Orchestra. Last season, more than 100 students took violin classes through the partnership.
The program has been such a success that TFO has partnered with Tampa Metropolitan Youth Orchestra (TMYO) to offer Prelude Strings, a beginning string ensemble for Prodigy® students who want to continue playing and potentially advance to a larger TMYO ensemble. The Prodigy® ensemble meets on the same night as all other TMYO orchestras so that students have a positive role model and goal. Participation in the ensemble is free, and Prodigy® students receive regular private lessons and an instrument at no charge.
The partnership also has inspired generous support from the community. “Music can change children’s lives, especially if they are able to play an instrument. Supporting Prodigy® means supporting children, and this gives my life meaning,” said Jeanne Coleman, a sponsor and TFO board member.
University Area CDC and Hillsborough County jointly provide funding for the program, including instrument rental and other class supplies. The grant also allows the orchestra to hire violin instructors and a coordinator dedicated to the partnership.
The idea is to use the violin to teach skills such as discipline, leadership and problem solving to eligible kids. Most of the students have never picked up a violin before.
The beginning violinists will show what they’ve learned at the Annual Prodigy® Showcase on Wednesday, Feb. 26, at the Friday Morning Musicale in Tampa from 6 to 7 p.m. The short recital will feature violinists from Thonotosassa, Roy Haynes and Gardenville community centers. It is free and open to the public.
The partnership began small in the summer of 2018, when the orchestra taught group violin classes twice a week to kids at one site, Roy Haynes Recreation Center in Tampa – a first for TFO and Prodigy®. 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, giving students the opportunity to try instruments for free. The number of program sites has since expanded as lessons are offered after school.
Prodigy®, a research proven diversion and prevention program, uses an innovative approach to empower, educate and enable eligible youth, providing a doorway to a better world. Kids ages five to 18 experience performing and visual arts, taught as a tool for self-expression, to learn communication, exploration, problem solving and conflict resolution skills. Now celebrating its 20th year, Prodigy® is transforming young lives and reaches across 10 counties.
The Prodigy® activities are a key component of TFO’s mission to help build a strong Tampa Bay community through the power of music, guided by Music Director Michael Francis. Last season, TFO served more than 90,000 people through community and education programs – most for free.
The Prodigy® activities are in addition to the orchestra’s season of 130 concerts, performed by 67 full-time professional musicians as the premier – and largest – orchestra in Florida.