The Blog

Striking Just the Right Chord

This article originally appeared in the Rye Record.

By Thomas Ragucci

It’s 11:30 on a Saturday morning, and the Carver Center in Port Chester is buzzing with bassy drumbeats and lively children. Harmonic piano chords meld with guitar riffs to fill the room with the energy of aspiring musicians. Against a backdrop of bright green walls, kids aged 6 to 12 receive lessons from high-school musicians in basic music theory as well as a plethora of instruments ranging from piano to violin, saxophone, and voice.

A-Chord with Kids is a program created by two Rye Country Day School sophomores, Austin Weber and Chase Goddard. Weber said, “Music has been a big part of my life, and I wanted to be able to share my love of music and the joy it brings with people who might not have that opportunity otherwise.”

The two founders enlisted the support of close to a dozen musical classmates to volunteer as additional teachers and bring the program to life. In Melody Hsu’s words, “Music is something that everyone deserves to experience, regardless of their circumstances.” For Christine Campisi, “Music is about bringing people together; it’s something that everyone understands, no matter what language they speak or where they’re from.”

The program began in the fall of 2012 and, without missing a beat, over 20 children enrolled and attended every Saturday for eight weeks. A spring session began in March. Eric Rios, Site Supervisor for the Afterschool Program, says the program’s resounding success is owing to its unique and non-traditional method of allowing kids to experiment with different instruments.

“The beauty to that is they get to approach music in a playful manner…. They’re playing music for the enjoyment of music, and that is really amazing and wonderful.” At the final class of each session, the community is invited to enjoy the music as well. A-Chord participants can sign up to play a short piece in front of their friends and family.

Isabella Rios, who started playing the violin through A-Chord

Mr. Rios, who has three daughters in A-Chord, said that the program allows his daughters to experience music in a way that they couldn’t otherwise. His 12-year-old daughter Isabella started playing the violin at A-Chord. “I love playing music because there is no right or wrong.” She has since received a scholarship for violin at The Rye Arts Center.

Steven, who is 9 years old and learning the alto saxophone and trumpet, also began his musical exploration at A-Chord. “I like learning about music,” he said, “and that’s what I want to learn my whole life.”

Before enrolling in the Saturday morning program, 10-year-old Christian had never played drums, which is now his favorite instrument.

The freedom to focus on one or two instruments — or swap instruments from week to week or within a class — creates different points of entry into the world of music.

If Mr. Rios has any concern, it’s that these ‘teachers’ are going to graduate from high school. “I’m just hoping that there will be other kids behind, coming up to continue this.”

The Rye Country Day student founders said they’re working to make sure it does.

The author is a sophomore at Rye Country Day School.