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Welcome to Youth Leaders in Music!

music mentors outside

On most Tuesdays from 4:00 to 5:00 at East Chapel Hill High School, the halls are alive with the sound of music! If the weather is pleasant, musicians spill onto the lawns in pairs and trios, mentors and mentees, high school students and middle school students. Welcome to Youth Leaders in Music, formerly known as Music Mentors.

In 2016 ECHHS orchestra student Jack Welsby approached his former Phillips Middle School (PMS) orchestra teacher, Ann Daaleman, with a proposal. At the time Welsby said, “The Phillips and East orchestras both have a lot of talent, and it’s hard for beginning students to keep up with the advanced ones. I wanted to offer free lessons so the beginning students would keep up with music.” Daaleman offered her full support, as well as her pride and gratitude!

The Music Mentors program was born, with Welsby and other ECHHS students carpooling to Phillips once a week to work with orchestra and band students. The program built strong relationships, and many high school mentors spoke about the power of giving back to their community.

But with the pandemic and remote learning, the program could no longer survive. 

Current senior Matilda Foureman reaped the benefits and enjoyment of Music Mentors when she was in middle school. “It taught me so many of the fundamental techniques, especially seeing these older people come in, these high schoolers, and I remember thinking, Wow– they’re adults. They can just sit down and play their instruments. That’s impossible! And now I’m that person!”                    Matilda and mentee

During the past year, Foureman began exploring ways to bring the program back into action. Orchestra members George Wang and Rithika Bandura were also motivated to join Foureman in recreating the mentoring magic. This year, a new version of Music Mentors was formed as Youth Leaders in Music, an official club at ECHHS.

Wang said, “Students who are disadvantaged or disadvantaged from Covid shouldn’t be blocked from music just because they don’t have the resources.” 

As Daaleman said in the December 8 edition of “FOCUSED, “... private lessons are expensive and this program could provide instruction to students free of charge and give them a way to understand what the high school programs were like.”

Now retired from CHCCS, Daaleman works as the “PLAY It Forward” Instrument Coordinator for the local non-profit, SKJAJA Fund. She said, “This year the students came to SKJAJA Fund and asked if we could help sponsor (the new club). So we were able to work with Chapel Hill Transit to provide a charter bus to bring the students from Phillips to East for the instruction -- and mentoring.” 

The Youth Leaders in Music gather on Tuesdays at ECHHS under the supervision of Director of Bands and Orchestras, Ryan Ellefsen. Daaleman still provides tireless direct support and she energizes the community-building.

music mentors in class

On October 17, the students gathered for the first time. Ellefsen paired up the students, and they set up their instruments in the classrooms, hallways and on fields outside. Daaleman said, “The engagement literally happened in about 15-20 minutes. This was probably my favorite thing of my teaching career, so I am so thrilled now through SKJAJA Fund, I can help support this. The teachers and the East Mentors have done an amazing job organizing this, and CH Transit has been great to partner with to provide the transportation. I love to see students taking leadership roles to provide a wonderful benefit to young musicians. Coming out of Covid where students have been more isolated, this provides so much interaction and just to see their smiles and joy and making music together is huge!”