Kroc Center offers young musicians a chance to play with the professionals

In an effort to expose more local children to the arts, the Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Center joined forces with the New York Staff Band and Carol Jantsch of the Philadelphia Orchestra for a free music clinic and public concert this weekend.


On Saturday, kids and adults interested in music were given the opportunity to learn and play with the professional musicians at the Wissahickon Avenue site. The seminar was followed by a public performance on Sunday.

Ronda Atwater, Salvation Army’s regional music director, said the event aimed to fill a gap in arts education for students in local schools.

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“A priority is sports,” Atwater said. “That’s where the money is going. Of course, there are a lot of Philadelphia schools that are lacking academically and so a lot of money is going towards that to build that up.”

The Kroc Center addressed the local need for arts education earlier this March by launching a music program for children. 

Atwater says the program is an opportunity to instill confidence and discipline in children who may not have the opportunity to thrive at home.  

Keneshia Webb, a 16 year old who attends Philadelphia High School for Girls, plays the trombone for the Kroc Center’s “Joyful Noise” music group. She says the program is giving her an opportunity to reach her goals. 

“I’ve always wanted to be a music teacher,” Webb said, “so to at least have the chance to teach it while I’m this age is important.”

Webb also sees the Kroc Center as a means to meet others who have the same passion for music.

“Most of the kids are my family,” Webb said, “so being here kind of branches them out. Now their best friends are people that live across the street or they just met here.”

Concerts like the one on Sunday night also provide opportunities for children to take their talent beyond music lessons.

“Today was just really great how our kids got to play with The New York Staff Band after playing for a couple of months,” Atwater said. “Right away, they saw the bigger picture.  Just even knowing how to play five or six notes, they got to be a part of something big.”

Atwater said she hoped the children benefitting from the music programs will continue to dream and perform beyond the Kroc Center’s walls. 

“Even beyond the music, we just hope that what we’re doing has value,” Atwater said, “and that the kids will really just appreciate and value what happens here and what we’re trying to build in them.”

All proceeds from this weekend’s concert will benefit the Kroc Center’s music education program for children.

Francis Hilario and Hope Janelle Berninghausen are Temple University students. They produced this piece for Philadelphia Neighborhoods in collaboration with WHYY/NewsWorks. 

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