Parents kneel in front of their children, correcting posture, repositioning violins under small chins and correctly placing fingers on bows. It’s all part of their commitment to their children’s classical music training.
They not only attend the hour-long lesson with their children each week, they also monitor daily practices at home. Most are single parents who cannot afford an instrument, much less lessons from a virtuoso like Chan Ho Yun.
By day Yun teaches at the prestigious Colburn School of Performing Arts in Los Angeles. In his spare time, he offers lessons to inner-city children through a program called Sweet Strings. It began in 1999 with 25 willing students and no instruments. Today it has around 130 instruments, a matching number of students ages 3 to 17 and a waiting list of 250 more children who want to learn to play.
When the children performed with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra in June 2000, they earned a standing ovation.
What Yun has done for the children is remarkable. But what he has done for the community is incredible. Parents have a new way to relate to their children and spend quality time with them. And they also find support and friendship from each other.
“The Korean, Latino and African American parents are coming together for their children’s sakes,” says Kika Keith, the mother who first approached Yun about teaching her daughter and other children. Stereotypes are disappearing, she says, “and friendships are building up.”
In spite of their diversity—or maybe because of it—the children and their parents have developed a special community that sets them apart. Theirs is an affirming environment where everyone receives encouragement.
Under Yun’s direction, they develop positive and productive relationships, teacher with students, students with each other, parents with children, parents with other parents.
Their common commitment to learning to play a classical musical instrument helps them not just overcome individual differences but respect them. By working together for the sake of the children, they have come to care for and on some levels depend on each other.
Community. Affirmation. Relationships. Commitment. Respect. Working together. Care. Interdependence.
Sounds a little bit like a church, doesn’t it?
“No matter where we come from or what color we are, the only color I recognize is the color of the music we make,” Yun says.
Might God say something similar about our churches? The most important thing to God is not where the members come from or the color of their skin. What matters is how they join together as the body of Christ to make the sounds of worship and witness.
Jan Turrentine is managing editor of Acacia Resources.