An Inside Look at Whitestone Elementary

I’ve been working with Whitestone Elementary for the last month, and I can confidently say that these kids are PUMPED to have Pathways Through Music in the classroom. As soon as the students found out why I was there, they couldn’t stop asking questions: ‘What instrument do you play?’ ‘Do you play drums too?’ ‘Do you also play the tuba??? (No, unfortunately I do not).

And who can blame them? Last year they experienced music, school, and socializing almost exclusively online. Concerts? Guest teachers? None. They lacked real world experiences that I think we often took for granted before the pandemic. So, starting this program feels like perfect timing. At least, that’s what Brooke Hartgraves believes.

Brooke Hartgraves is the Performing Arts teacher at Whitestone Elementary. She is someone who cares deeply about her students, and wants them to have as many opportunities and as much fun as possible. In fact, I was impressed with many of the things that she had planned for the classroom while I was observing. This included a movie production for Veterans Day, a song and movement game for Thanksgiving, and a custom light show by the kindergarteners! I could tell that each and every kid was excited to be there, and that the students were thankful to be able to participate.

I asked what makes Whitestone so special, and Brooke immediately said one word: everything. If she had to choose one thing though, she said that it’s the support she feels from her principal, her administration, and the community. And that’s part of the reason she was so eager to get us in the classroom. She knew that everyone would be excited about new opportunities for students to experience music. She considers herself a lifelong learner too, and can’t wait to see some of the things we’ll be able to do together.

Pathways will begin its programming at Whitestone by visiting in December to do some guest teaching classes. This will give all of the students at the school an opportunity to get to know us. Then, in January, we will begin visiting on a more regular basis. These visits will include lessons on new instruments, performances by guest teachers, and meetings to implement some of our curriculum for the long-term.

We can’t wait to start making music with Whitestone Elementary. We can feel the support that Brooke Hartgraves has mentioned, and we know how important that is for any school or organization. That is why we are so thankful for the support we have gotten so far, and for the support we will continue to receive.

Pickup Notes: Episode 1

Pickup Notes is a video series by Pathways Through Music, where the directors sit down and have a conversation about various topics and give updates on the organization.

For the first episode, Jesse (Executive Director) and Doug (Program Director) talk a little about themselves and answer questions like ‘What is the need we are fulfilling in the community?’, ‘Why did we create Pathways Through Music?’, and ‘What challenges have we faced so far?’.

Community Collaboration: Orpheus Academy of Music

Pathways Through Music was recently featured in a series of concerts and events by Orpheus Academy of Music!

Orpheus Academy of Music is a local music school based in Austin, TX. Their mission is to foster a life-long passion for music in students of all ages in a musical learning environment that is nurturing and professional. They have a wide variety of programs that include guitar lessons, piano lessons, violin lessons, singing and voice lessons, group musicianship classes, and summer music camps.

Each year they support a local organization by featuring them in their Friendship Concerts, Composer Showcase, and other events.

Watch the video to hear more about how you can support Pathways Through Music and music education in our community!

How Music Transformed My Life

My old guitar club (and me from 10th grade!)

“Transforming lives through deliberate and meaningful experiences in music by developing curriculums that are culturally representative of our communities, collaborations that provide opportunities for all, and performances that inspire a connection to the people around us.”

You might have read our mission statement before, or heard it in a meeting or over a coffee. But what does it actually mean? Well, I’d like to try to answer that question (at least, what it means to me):

When I got to middle school, I was nervous and excited. There would be triple the students I was used to, and a lot of them seemed to be basically adults (even though they were only in the eighth grade). I was told that there would be so many cool things for me to do. This included dances and school events, clubs for things I hadn’t even heard of, and classes that would set me up through high school. I did some of these extra things at first, but ultimately decided that I’d just do the minimum required. I heard of a ‘guitar club’ that met after school. It seemed cool, but I wasn’t ready to put myself out there.

After my first year, I started to settle in. My interests included video games, skateboarding, and listening to Green Day. After school I’d wander around the neighborhood and local park with some close friends that shared my interests. I tried to fit in with them the best I could. In fact, I even changed my whole wardrobe to try and fit in. Their acceptance meant everything to me, and for a long time that’s all I really cared about.

It’s important to understand that this time of my life wasn’t easy for me, and I don’t think it’s easy for anyone. I was shy, but rebellious. I spent all of my free time with my friends and idolizing people that had no intention of ever really doing anything. I lost touch with my parents, lost interest in my old hobbies, and my grades started to drop. Everyday I seemed to drift down a darker and darker path.

That is, until I met the teacher of that guitar club. I was walking the halls with an old friend who grew up down the street from me. She had been going to the club meetings, and we just so happened to be walking by the teacher at that exact moment. He said hello to my friend, and then asked her why she hadn’t brought me along to the meetings. I shrugged, but he asked me to come check it out that week. No pressure, just to check out some songs they were playing.

If it weren’t for that moment, or the guidance that came from continuing to go to meetings, I’m not sure my life would have turned out the way it did. After I joined the guitar club, I didn’t hang out with my friends as much, but I made new ones! I made friends that pushed me to get out of my comfort zone and to express myself honestly. Some of these friendships became lifelong friendships, and I cherish the opportunity that my music teacher gave me.

Music has the ability to transform lives. It may seem insignificant, but when I decided to spend my free time listening, practicing, and performing, it felt like I had a purpose. Music helps us make connections, both with ourselves and with others. It gives us a voice to express what we really feel, or to show what we’ve experienced. You learn valuable life lessons like problem solving and grit, and you gain self-confidence along the way.

Every student, regardless of background, deserves the right to experience the joy of music. My dream is to take my own experience and pay it forward, by giving students an opportunity and creating programs that are reflective of them. Pathways Through Music will help transform lives, just like mine was so long ago.