More than a dozen Tuned-In students won scholarships to prestigious music camps this summer — all-expenses-paid opportunities to play with their peers from all over the country at the Aspen Music Festival and Bard College, and full and partial scholarships to attend the elite summer music program at the Interlochen Center for the Arts.
“We’re creating an accessibility to music in Baltimore City that hasn’t been seen in a long time,” says Dan Trahey (BM ’00, Tuba, Music Education), co-creator and director of Tuned-In — which offers full Peabody Preparatory scholarships, including weekly private lessons, ensembles, mentoring, and opportunities to attend musical events to talented Baltimore City public school students.
Two-thirds of city public schools offer no music education, and nonprofit arts organizations don’t have a lot of money to spare on “hyperspecific summer learning,” Mr. Trahey says. “But there are now many organizations in town, including three major music education centers — the Peabody Preparatory, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and the Baltimore School for the Arts — serving the very same kids. We couldn’t do it alone, but together we’ve created this magical support structure for kids in Baltimore City.”
Gavin Farrell (MM ’99, Percussion; MM ’01, Theory), executive director of the Peabody Preparatory, calls summer camp a “rite of passage for American youth.” He says: “A lot of our kids wouldn’t ordinarily be able to do anything of this magnitude. The Take a Stand Festival, a national event for kids from programs like Tuned-In, held this summer at Aspen and Bard, was created with the idea that everything is free [for student participants], even travel. And we’ve had incredible support from Interlochen, the BSO, the Baltimore City Public Schools system, and Southwest Airlines, which all worked together to make this possible.”
“It’s extremely competitive,” Mr. Trahey says, “especially Interlochen. They’re up against kids from all over the world, not to mention kids who’ve been home-schooled or attend schools in elite districts and have lessons several times a week, and all the time in the world to practice. We don’t make excuses about where our kids are from. They have to audition and play at exactly the same level in order to succeed.”
Jonah Lassiter, 16, has been playing the flute since he was in second grade and says he practices three or four hours a day. “I love the sound and the technique of it, and I just always want to get better,” he says. “Going to all of these places, I’ve met people from all over. Now I focus harder and look at other people and think, ‘How can I help you?’”
Eli Wirth (BM ’99, Tuba; MM ’02, Music Education), associate director of Tuned-In, says Jonah is one of the reasons he is so proud of the program. “He has 10 brothers and sisters, and an older sister has three children, all growing up in a three-bedroom home in West Baltimore. He overcame a lot to become a good-enough flute player to get into one of the city’s best high schools, the Baltimore School of the Arts. He is now one of our mentors, one of our leaders, and is thinking about college, which is not something most of his peers are doing.”
Mr. Trahey says the camps can be a culture shock, especially Interlochen, which is in the woods and tends to attract economically privileged students. “Our kids are not used to bugs, and they’re used to different night noises, the natural sounds of the city. But they are so proud to be from Baltimore City. They see how much diversity they have, people and food and culture, that doesn’t exist in some places — and the quality of their music is so high. By the end of the summer, they’re best friends with [other kids from all over the country].
“So they love going away,” says Mr. Trahey, “but they also love coming home, which is exactly what we want — for them to be the next generation of teachers and leaders in Baltimore.”
— Joan Cramer