Mutual of America
  2016 Community Partnership Award

Across the country, there is a widening gap in academic achievement between underserved students and their more advantaged peers. With lower performance on most measures of academic success, including standardized test scores, high school completion, and college enrollment and graduation rates, many of these students are leaving school ill-prepared to meet the challenges of today's workforce.

Kidznotes, a Durham, North Carolina-based nonprofit organization, is reducing the academic achievement gap through the power of music. Launched in partnership with Durham and Wake County Public Schools in 2010, Kidznotes provides musical instruments and eight to ten hours per week of intensive instruction during the school year at no cost to children in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Kidznotes does more than teach kids how to hit the right notes: modeled after El Sistema, a proven music outreach program from Venezuela, it's a system for social change that uses music education to build young people's confidence and belief in themselves so that they can be successful in all areas of life. Participants perform regularly in school concerts, take field trips, participate in master classes with professional musicians and play side by side with performers in orchestras such as the North Carolina Symphony. The impact of this immersive study has been significant; an independent evaluation found that Kidznotes students demonstrated positive development across a range of indicators, including musical proficiency, academic performance and personal/social growth.

"Students who participate in our program perform better when compared to their non-Kidznotes classmates in several measures, including school attendance, and literacy and math scores, while experiencing fewer disciplinary problems," said co-founder Katie Wyatt. "For example, 80% of students who spent at least a year in the program scored 'proficient' or higher in their 5th-grade end-of-year tests, versus 36% for their classroom peers. Based on this success, our goal is to double enrollment from 500 kids today to 1,000 by 2020 so that even more low-income children can be successful through music."

Durham Public Schools
Wake County Public School System
Durham, North Carolina