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Justice's Journey

Justice Crawford is making a musical name for himself.

His mother, a psychologist and one-time flutist, has played in orchestras and knew she wanted her children to be exposed to music. "I've always had an appreciation for what music can do for the mind and for a person's spirit in general," says Endora Crawford. "It's always been my plan for my kids to dabble in music."

But Justice is doing more than just dabbling. This talented 8th grader is one of the first two students from the Charlotte Symphony's
Winterfield Youth Orchestra program (now part of Project Harmony), covered in The Charlotte Observer in 2014 for his successful audition and admission into Northwest School of the Arts.

Maybe music helped ground Justice. His father served as a U.S. Naval Officer for 23 years, so he was born in Japan and spent many of his younger years in Hawaii. When his parents divorced, his mother moved the boys from Hawaii to Charlotte, landing in the Winterfield neighborhood. The family then moved to south Charlotte, where he is now an 8th grader at Alexander Graham Middle School.
Justice recently took his musical next step: auditioning for the Charlotte Symphony Junior Youth Orchestra.

Of the new group, in which Justice plays viola, Ms. Crawford says, "It's good to push him." Following his little bit of fame, she adds, she noticed an increased seriousness from her son--that people were noticing him, so they would be counting on him. "For the seating auditions, we could tell he was physically nervous," she says. "But that just meant that he knows it was important, and I love that. It shows that he was really taking it to heart."

Joining JYO also has given Justice a heightened level of discipline, Ms. Crawford says. "He's learning the expectation that you're going to play your best ... and practice harder, because others are now relying on you." Like any sport, an orchestra makes you part of a team. And Justice is playing his part.

So what's next for this budding violist? Ms. Crawford says she and her son have talked about career choices and this lover of math says his top choices are to become an Intellectual Property attorney or go into cyber security. As for music, Ms. Crawford says, "The plan is to play music as long as he'd like to continue to play."


Come support Justice and the dozens of other talented young musicians in JYO at an upcoming concerts. Read more

Posted in Education & Community, Youth Orchestras. Tagged as Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestras, CSYO, Education, Project Harmony, winterfield elementary.

Music Opens Doors


Brianna Davis loves playing the flute. This budding young musician, and graduate of our Winterfield Youth Orchestra (now Project Harmony) after-school program, is now a thriving sixth grader, playing in the band at Northwest School of the Arts.

"I have more freedom and I can choose my electives," Brianna says about her new school. "And I get to play harder songs."

And she isn't alone. Brianna is one of seven students from our Winterfield program who have graduated from the eastside school, and been accepted by audition into Northwest, the Charlotte area's only middle and high school arts magnet.

One of our core education programs, Winterfield has engaged second through fifth grade students in free weekly music instruction for six years. Students learn to play strings, woodwinds, brass, or percussion from our own musicians and other local artists.

Three times a year, Winterfield students, teachers, parents, orchestra musicians, and the surrounding community members gather to enjoy the student performances. A community meal follows each concert. We are proud that our Winterfield Youth Orchestra helps build this community through the shared love of music-making.

Music Director Christopher Warren-Green was able to meet and congratulate young Brianna during a recent visit to Winterfield Elementary, where he was conducting the full orchestra in a free community festival.

When asked about her favorite part about band, Brianna says, "Well, there is this girl, and she has a hard time, but she is better now because I help her."

Future Charlotte Symphony flutist? You never know. Read more

Posted in Education & Community. Tagged as Education, Project Harmony, winterfield elementary.

Winterfield Program kicks off with a concert!

Bright and early on Monday, September 14, Winterfield Elementary students in grades 2-5 sat on the gymnasium floor, wriggling with anticipation for the presentation. The students were treated to performances from a Charlotte Symphony quintet featuring selections ranging from Also Sprach Zarathustra to the theme from Super Mario Bros.



Monday's show was an exciting kick-off to the sixth year of the successful partnership between the Symphony and Winterfield, where students participate in a free after school music program (now known as Project Harmony). The intent was to raise interest in the Winterfield Youth Orchestra, to encourage new enrollment, and celebrate North Carolina's "Arts in Education" week. 

Students stared in awe at the various instruments--violin, cello, flute, clarinet, and trumpet--all available through the Winterfield program. Students also listened, wide-eyed, to demos by winds instructor Michael Sanders and strings instructor Taddes Korris, and danced in their seats to a percussion demo (that included a call-and-response game) by bucket band leader Fred Dunlap.

A special thank you to everyone who participated in the program:


CSO Musicians: Jenny Topilow, violin; Sarah Markle, cello; Taddes Korris, bass; Dru DeVan, clarinet; Andrew Fierova, horn

WYO Teachers: Fred Dunlap, Percussion and Bucket Band; Michael Sanders, Winds

Winterfield Staff: Anna Helms Kennington, Community in Schools; Courtney Hollenbeck, teacher and founder of the school's youth orchestra program, Nancy Bain, music teacher.

Posted in Education & Community. Tagged as Project Harmony, winterfield elementary.

Heart Strings

When rising 6th-grader Maria stood proudly in front of an audience of some 25 people last Thursday (July 22) to perform "I'm a Little Teapot" on her bright pink violin, it signaled a triumph a triumph not just for this quiet, thin, intelligent young girl, but for teacher Courtney Hollenbeck and the children of Winterfield Elementary School.

It has been more than three years since Courtney Hollenbeck, a young second grade teacher at Winterfield Elementary, first brought her violin to school to teach her class about sound. Winterfield is a high-poverty school about 90% of the students are economically disadvantaged and most of the 7 and 8-year olds in Ms. Hollenbeck's class had never seen or heard a violin. They were all fascinated, but one little girl showed unusual interest. That little girl was Maria.

After class, Maria, who is shy and undemanding, walked boldly up to her teacher and asked for violin lessons. Courtney Hollenbeck is not a violinist; she played as a teenager, but did not study music seriously. But she recognized in that moment what the violin might do in the lives of her students. So, not only did she agree to teach Maria, but she founded a violin program at Winterfield a program open to all interested students, free of charge. She began to scour Ebay in search of affordable violins, spending her own money to purchase instruments for the growing number of children in her Friday afternoon violin class.

Without even knowing it, Ms. Hollenbeck became part of a movement in the United States an ever-expanding effort to help children become smarter students and better citizens through music. While the concept is not new, it has received a booster shot with the recent appointment of Gustavo Dudamel as Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Dudamel is a graduate of arguably the most successful youth music program in the world, Venezuela's "El Sistema." Since he began receiving widespread media attention two years ago, programs all over the country have taken root, serving children from Baltimore to Los Angeles to Juno, Alaska. Learn more at http://elsistemausa.org/.

This past December, Courtney Hollenbeck called the Charlotte Symphony looking for help. Her program now served 25 children, grades 2 through 5, and with so many kids at so many different levels, it had exceeded her ability to teach them. The Symphony's Education Programs Manager, Chris Stonnell, and I met with Ms. Hollenbeck and began to brainstorm ways to support the program.

A three-week summer violin camp was one of the fruits of our efforts. Children in the Winterfield program were invited to attend the camp, where they received general music instruction, instrument demonstrations, and violin lessons with Sa-Idah Harley, a local violinist and violin teacher. The camp culminated in the performance last Thursday, July 22, in which Maria, her 8-year-old sister Julia, and their friend Leslie played for their families, Winterfield staff, and other campers.

The Charlotte Symphony has applied for grants from the N.C. Arts Council and the Foundation for the Carolinas to help strengthen and improve the program at Winterfield this academic year. Everywhere you look, funding for arts education is tight if not downright obliterated. Arts organizations all over Charlotte, all over North Carolina, all over the United States, are struggling to find ways to bring music or drama or dance or painting into the lives of children. School systems, counties, states have cut arts education budgets. Brave and passionate individuals, like Courtney Hollenbeck, and organizations like the Charlotte Symphony are bridging the gap. But we need help.
Originally Posted: July 2010

The CSO is happy to announce that the NC Arts Council has granted the Symphony money in support of the Winterfield Strings Program for 2010-2011.

Meg Freeman Whalen is CSO Director of Public Relations and Community Engagement
Read more

Posted in Education & Community. Tagged as Education, Project Harmony, winterfield elementary.

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