Music with Minnesotans: Kelly Carter and Tricia Morgan-Brist

by Alison Young, Minnesota Public Radio
May 22, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. — All of us have those moments.

It might only be one, but it's a moment when everything becomes crystal clear and we know exactly what we must do, what our destiny is.

For Kelly Carter, it was when she watched a TED talk about the miraculous music education program in Venezuela called "El Sistema." It produced Gustavo Dudamel, the charismatic Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

But it wasn't the genius of Dudamel that captured Kelly's attention - and eventually her heart. It was El Sistema's mission of taking young children who may never be exposed to music due to their economic and social situation and immersing them in it and watching them reap the great rewards that playing a classical instrument can bring them.

Musical achievement is paramount, but so is discipline, creativity, teamwork and responsibility. Through the discovery of making music together, these young kids open up a whole new world for themselves, a sense of their strengths and in turn they become better citizens, more invested in the community and able to see and achieve their dreams.

Kelly called up her best friend Tricia Morgan-Brist right after seeing learning of El Sistema and the two created Advocates for Community Through Musical Excellence or A.C.M.E. Both of them had such a terrific music program in school, they were surprised after graduating from college that this was not the case for all children.

So at El Sistema in North Minneapolis, the lessons begin for children in first grade - four days per week for two-and-a-half hours after school - and the plan is to have this program available to them for all twelve of their school years.

Yes, it is intense! But the kids play and have other diversions including beginning the program not with actual instruments, but paper ones, violins that look and feel like real ones and decorated personally - so plenty of hot pink strings, flower-spattered chin rests and rainbow finger boards!

The idea is to get the feel first, sing, learn team-work and about music so the day an actual violin is put in the child's hands is a very special one.

And the big moment of the year was when musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra gave a concert and students played along standing in front, a bit nervous, but blown away by what sounds can be made with practice and hard work.

Many, many people come together to make this educational event happen in North Minneapolis - all volunteering their time and treasure - including lessons offered by Minnesota Orchestra musicians and instruments donated by Claire Givens Violins.

Two inspiring ladies - Kelly Carter and Tricia Morgan-Brist - plan to continue El Sistema Minneapolis this summer and into future years. Congratulations on a successful first year!

Kelly and Tricia's playlist:

Arturo Marquez, Danzon - Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra/Dudamel

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, The Snow Maiden: Dance of the Tumblers - Seattle Symphony/Schwarz

Astor Piazzolla, Spring - Kremerata Baltica

Next week I'm joined by Dick Green. He's worked as an art director for ad agencies, makes art and music and in retirement, drives a school bus for the Eden Prairie schools.

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