A Nod to Music Doing Good from an Amazing Teacher!

Music Doing Good with Scholarships is truly grateful to all of the teachers with whom we work. We are in awe of their dedication, resourcefulness, stamina and desire to go the extra mile for their students. Often, when reviewing applications and recommendation letters, it is very clear that many of these students would not excel if it weren’t for some very powerful and positive influences in their lives. We received this letter from a teacher who has referred many students to our scholarship program. And we need a thousand more just like Mary Beth Melvin at Olle Middle School in Alief ISD!

“When a child receives formal recognition for any act, positive or negative, even if this recognition is unannounced, other kids find out.  If the “prize” is the obsequious “Good Citizenship Award”, they still secretly envy the winner.  When a child receives a scholarship from Music Doing Good, they acquire a certain cachet; a few nods of the head, some street “cred” from adults and kids alike. In the neighborhood where I teach (middle school orchestra), Hip-Hop, Gangsta Rap, Chicano Rap, and graffiti are the stand-out artistic forms. Creating something kind, beautiful or innocent, or just something not angry and loud, can be considered a weakness, and the creator becomes vulnerable.  A Music Doing Good scholarship gets a good kid noticed, supported.

A Music Doing Good scholarship is at the very least recognition of the intent to do good, not harm. An important part of receiving a scholarship is writing an essay about the goodness of music in life and how to share it. No matter what other obstacles my students may encounter, and there are many, they “own” the prize of knowing that some outside entity validated this in them. This in itself is Music Doing Good and truly does have a resounding effect on the child, families and their larger community.

When a child receives a scholarship for private lessons from Music Doing Good, they are inevitably exposed to at least one adult who is not just a model of musical skill, but also an example of the perseverance it takes to become a professional musician.  Many of my students are defeated before they’ve even given something new a try. They do not yet appreciate the difference between constructive feedback and failure, and certainly do not know how to use failure to learn.

Over my many years of teaching, privately and in public schools, I have had adults ask me questions like,  “Why should she get private lessons; why can’t she do it all on her own if she’s so talented?” I usually use a sports analogy, like a personal trainer for a promising athlete, to answer this question. Sometimes I say, “Your child will learn to cook from a master chef” or something along those lines. In this way, a Music Doing Good scholarship enlightens a whole family. The process gives the family an idea of how to bridge one sphere of learning to another. It gives them experience negotiating unfamiliar social situations within the structure of the musical community.

Specifically, last year’s Music Doing Good scholarship, awarded to my student Pablo, gave him the opportunity to prepare an audition and win a place in TMEA region orchestra. This experience, which I will detail, permeated his life, his family and his school.

Pablo had very little understanding of the performance standard required to participate in Region orchestra. We had many weeks with multiple lessons after school. I know at times Pablo thought I was crazy and overly critical, but he was the first student in at least 20 years win a position in Region 23 Middle School Orchestra. In addition, this year he was one of only two students in all of Alief ISD to be placed in the Region 23 Middle School Orchestra.

Because Pablo’s mother does not drive, or even own a car, because she works odd hours, because he has no other adult friend or family member who is able to take him to auditions and rehearsals, Pablo needs me to take him to these events. This is typical of my students at Olle Middle School. Three days before the region audition he came to me and said, “my mom says I can’t go to the audition. There is no one to take me or pick me up, and she needs me to go grocery shopping with her” It was all so casual I was flabbergasted! I told him he had worked so hard, it would be a shame not to try, and that I would take him to the audition, with his mother’s permission. I still had to get a school counselor to contact his relatives to impress on them that this was more than a usual school rehearsal. I also had only 48 hours to reserve an Alief ISD auxiliary car so that when I did take Pablo, I would not be violating district policy. It happened that the only vehicle available that Saturday was a mini bus, and I would need to skip school that day to be trained to drive it. My school principal said to me, “I wouldn’t do it…” But Pablo is worth it! Any child who wishes to work hard and do good with music is!

When Pablo was accepted into the Region 23 orchestra, he was expected to have dress clothes for the performance. When I told him he would need to wear black pants, a dress shirt, a tie, dress socks and dress shoes his response was, “Why!? Please, no! I don’t want to stick out!!” So I laughed and said, “Pablo, all of the other kids will be dressed up, too. You will stick out if you are NOT dressed up.” This was an epiphany for him. I used some of the money given me by Music Doing Good as Pablo’s teacher to buy him a white dress shirt, a black dress shirt, a belt, two ties, black socks, black dress pants and black dress shoes. Uvaldo Callejas, his intermediate school teacher, took him to shop for the clothes, and gave me the receipts, which I still have. Pablo’s “fancy dress clothes” have become part of his mystique among the other Olle orchestra kids. We purchased a video of the Region 23 performance and played it for all of the orchestra classes. It is important for the other students to see one of their own participating in and being “special” for something other than sports. This is a benefit aside from simply enjoying the music! This is Music Doing Good.

I have dozens of stories about Pablo, not to mention my other students who are inspired to try because of his success.  All of this is a reflection not only of Pablo as a wonderful human being, but also of Pablo being awarded a scholarship for private lessons from Music Doing Good. For the 2018-19 school year, I will have 11 scholarship recipients in orchestra at Olle!! Thank you!! My challenge now is to find expert teachers for all of them, given their transportation difficulties. I am working on it. Thank you!

I hope that I have given you a glimpse of the blessings Music Doing Good gives to children, families, and communities. I have many more stories I am happy to share if you are ever in doubt.

Sincerely,

Mary Beth Melvyn

Orchestra Teacher, Olle Middle School, Alief ISD

Interlochen Arts Academy graduate (double bass major)

University of Michigan, Bachelor of Music (in cello performance)

Rice University, Master of Music (in cello performance)

Other credentials are available upon request to the above address.