Kai: This Gold Award Girl Scout Revived Music Education at a School Where it Had Been Silenced
Music is an emotional outlet unlike any other. It’s a form of self-expression and a healthy, actually productive, way to deal with complicated emotions. Kids today are so stressed out—I mean, we’re doing active shooter drills in school from the time we’re in kindergarten—so it should be obvious that we need good ways to manage our feelings, but fewer and fewer schools are offering orchestra or even band as an option. It’s like this whole generation is being robbed of emotional outlets, and then they wonder why so many young people are feeling anxious or depressed.
Playing music has been a real form of therapy for me personally, but private lessons are expensive—definitely not something every family can afford. There shouldn’t be a price of admission for something so important to self-development and expression. Growing up as a Girl Scout from the time I was five years old, I’ve learned that if you see a problem, you can take steps to solve it—so for my Girl Scout Gold Award, I decided to bring a music program to a middle school in my area.
It’s true that outfitting an orchestra isn’t cheap, but it turns out that a lot of schools have full closets full of instruments that have just been sitting there unused for years. When I realized there was a supply of violins, cellos, violas, and more just gathering dust in my town, I asked the principal at a local middle school if I could start an orchestra on campus. He said yes, and before I knew it, I had 27 middle schoolers committed to showing up every Saturday. Teaching turned out to be the simplest part of creating an orchestra—I loved working with younger kids, and connecting with people over music is what I’m best at—it was through other, more unexpected challenges, that I learned the most and found the most meaning.
One girl who was really interested in playing the violin thought she’d never be able to, as she’s missing her left hand. It didn’t feel right to be that something like a physical difference should stop her from having this experience, so I reached out to a family friend who had a connection to a hospital where they make prosthetics. Once they agreed to make a special prosthetic for her that could hold a violin bow, I got to work on switching a right-handed violin to one that would work on the left. That meant taking the bridge off, and then flipping it and all the strings to the opposite order. It was a lot of effort, but in the end, it worked. Not only can she now play violin, but she found a new passion in the process.
My proudest moment through all of this wasn’t the day I became a Gold Award Girl Scout, or even hearing the orchestra play all together in front of an audience for the first time—it was being asked to make a video of myself playing violin for that girl to watch at home because she said she was inspired by my playing. I watch videos of Itzhak Perlman to get inspired and motivated—he’s my hero. To have a younger girl want to watch videos of me like I do of him? Wow. That just made me stop and realize I’d become a role model. It’s both the coolest and most humbling feeling in the world.