St. Olaf College | News

Student launches program aimed at making musical connections

Maggie Schenk ’16 created Musical Connections, a program that pairs St. Olaf musicians with local young musicians to provide free music lessons.

As St. Olaf College student Maggie Schenk ’16 prepared to offer flute lessons to young musicians last year, she wondered whether the cost would prevent some students from participating.

And the thought that any child might not have access to music — which Schenk has had a passion for since taking private flute lessons at age 7— prompted her to take action.

Schenk teamed up with fellow St. Olaf Orchestra member Lauren Culver ’15 to create Musical Connections, a program that pairs St. Olaf musicians with local young musicians to provide free music lessons.

This summer, Schenk’s work is supported  by a grant from The Schubert Club, a Twin Cities organization that promotes musical talent and performance.

The lessons for Musical Connections are hosted at the Greenvale Community School, an after-school program that offers a wide range of activities to children and their families at Greenvale Elementary School.

So far Musical Connections has had five St. Olaf student teachers working with eight students on four different instruments. The students and teachers are matched on a case-by-case basis. If there is a student at the Community School who wants to learn violin, for example, current teachers are asked or new teachers are sought out for the position.

Schenk has performed with her flute student in the Evening of the Arts at Greenvale Elementary School as well as encouraged her student to attend St. Olaf music concerts.

The work it has taken to make Musical Connections possible has been tremendous. From communicating with students and teachers to organizing recitals and promoting the program, Schenk has learned that persistence is key.

Her plans for sustaining the program involve establishing connections with the St. Olaf Music Department, growing the program to include more instruments and student teachers, and creating a more formal work structure where St. Olaf student teachers will be compensated for their time.

Aside from Musical Connections, Schenk has also volunteered her time at other Northfield community programs like Growing up Healthy and LINK Center. She has found that in one way or another, many of the local programs Northfield has to offer are tied together.

In a survey distributed by the Greenvale Community School, several students and parents noted that their favorite program was Musical Connections.

Although the program is still developing, it has been really exciting to feel more connected with the greater Northfield community and to already be hearing that our work is recognized and appreciated,” Schenk says. “One of the most rewarding experiences of this project has been seeing both students and teachers become more enthusiastic, dedicated, and confident in themselves and in their musicianship, even in the short time we’ve been interacting.