SCHENECTADY — Since their inception in 2015, the Empire State Youth Orchestra’s (ESYO) CHIME program has been working with the Schenectady City School District (SCSD) to create meaningful change for young musicians within the area. In 2023, with support from SCSD, CHIME will be doubling their program membership to more than 140 students.
“CHIME simply would not be possible without our partnership with the Schenectady City School District,” says Executive Director Becky Calos. “The school district’s advocacy for the arts and their unwavering commitment to equity and access is truly remarkable.”
“We work closely with the District to learn about what the students are getting during the school day and how we can complement that. SCSD has such a robust music program already, and we work closely with the wonderful music teachers that Schenectady has to augment those offerings,” said Zoë Auerbach, CHIME & Young Leaders Director.
“Looking back on the year, it’s really gratifying to see it taking root in the overall culture at CHIME. It feels like a culture shift, where students are showing up expecting to play an active role in the decision-making and the entire cultivation of the learning space and environment,” said Auerbach.
An essential aspect of their work is to expand access and reduce barriers. Since ESYO was founded in 1979, over the years, through their outreach programs, it has been recognized that there is an overall accessibility problem. Barriers for students can be limited access to transportation, instruments, time, space for home practice, or not having learning spaces that are accommodating to different types of learners.
The SCSD/ESYO partnership allows CHIME to offer programming to enrolled SCSD students entirely tuition-free, and elementary students from across the district are now eligible to join CHIME through a lottery system. The expanded program also includes transportation to and from CHIME sites,
located at Yates Elementary School and Proctors Theatre.
Through this expanded partnership with SCSD, which accommodates more students, it also provides opportunities for the musicians to share their gifts across the country. This past summer, CHIME cellist Jazlyn Bronson traveled to Chicago with three of her CHIME peers— violinists Ayden and Ian Chrisman and flutist Zoe Daniels— to play side-by-side with the Chicago Philharmonic.
Calos highlighted the importance of gathering students together with their peers in a collaborative environment to perform live music. The CHIME program’s annual free holiday concert on December 12 at Schenectady High School allowed the public to experience firsthand the results of the past year of their collaborative work with each other and the District.
“That’s what’s at the heart of CHIME: bringing students together to make music together and advance their skills and technique as a group,” added Calos. “CHIME has become a musical family. Students find an artistic identity, and that shapes CHIME itself.”
“I think it’s imperative that we have opportunities
for students to explore the arts and music in particular,” she continued. “With the CHIME program, we’re adding to what’s already going on in the District. CHIME is not replacing, but an extension of what they’re getting during the day. The spark is already there.”
“The arts are important for the development of our young people,” said Anibal Soler, Jr., SCSD Superintendent of Schools. “The CHIME program promotes equity and access, giving many students an incredible opportunity they might not otherwise have. The steady growth of CHIME is an indication of what this program means to our school community.”
For more information regarding enrollment, donations, and more, visit esyo.org.