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Standing up for Durham's youth with Music

Local nonprofit to hold conference on music and service

Music is not only contagious and joyful, it is also a way for children to express themselves in challenging ways and develop skills that lead them to a better life, according to Katie Wyatt, the executive director of KidZNotes.

The Durham-based nonprofit will hold a free, two-day professional development and networking workshop, "Take A Stand," beginning on Friday, Feb. 15, to introduce Duke students to the ways music helps builds community. KidZNotes partners with Durham Public Schools and community centers to bring music education to lower-income youth.

It will be held in Duke's Nelson Music Room on the first day, and on the second day, participants will work directly with children at Holton Career and Resource Center (401 N. Driver St., Durham). To register, visit

Conference speakers include Los Angeles youth orchestra manager Dan Berkowitz, North Carolina State arts entrepreneurship program director Gary D. Beckman and Duke music professor Stephen Jaffe.

Wyatt, who founded KidZNotes, based the program on El Sistema, a global music education philosophy developed in Venezuela in the 1970s. El Sistema uses youth orchestras to improve communities.

"It uses music to empower children," Wyatt said. "It also requires a lot of hard work."

Duke students will have the opportunity to network with arts entrepreneurs like Wyatt and Scott Lindroth, the university's vice provost for the arts.

Lindroth was interested in supporting KidZNotes early on, offering the fledgling organization a grant to purchase instruments in 2011. Since then, Lindroth has devised ways to expand the Duke-KidZNotes partnership.

"Being able to combine arts and entrepreneurship and doing something good for the community is a very compelling package, and that's what KidZNotes has done," Lindroth said. "It's a project that students might find useful if they want to get engaged in an arts-oriented entrepreneurship effort (after graduation)."

Wyatt hopes KidZNotes' partnership with Duke will inspire other El Sistema-based programs to partner with universities in their communities.

"The partnership began through Scott (Lindroth's) vision to have Duke make significant social change in Durham," Wyatt said. "KidZNotes serves as the conduit for Duke to make an impact in Durham, and our vision is to make that impact grow."