The Watts-Willowbrook Music Conservatory is designed to transform the lives and minds of young people in the Watts-Willowbrook area of Los Angeles through high-quality music education. The organization’s mission is to inspire and enable all young people to reach their full potential as productive, caring, and responsible citizens.

The program was founded on January 6, of this year, after program director Les Jones saw a need to expand the minds and abilities of the youngsters enrolled in the Watts-Willowbrook Boys and Girls Club.

“We already had a music arts program that was put together by the Black Eyed Peas. It features a lot of Hip Hop influence, theater, and music engagement and is a success, but I was still interested in getting more kids in college, and wanted to give them a more broad knowledge of music. I wanted them to be able to do more than sing, rap, or beatbox. It is beneficial for them to also learn how to read music and play instruments. By turning them into an orchestra, they become engaged and enriched,” said Jones.

The conservatory is part of the overall wide-range of programs and services the club offers, which are designed to address social, educational, vocational, character, and leadership development.

The conservatory, however does have its own application process, and while rare, students are sometimes enrolled only in the music conservatory.

“There are currently 30 kids in the conservatory, and their ages ranges from six to about 18. We don’t have too many older students involved though, they aren’t really interested. The younger kids surprisingly have the dexterity needed to play the violin, and they tend to be more capable of picking it up than the older kids.”

The conservatory offers basic instruction in violin and hopes to expand to cello and piano in the near future. Students attend class for one hour, twice a week in 10-week sessions. The program is preparing to start its third session, which will run for eight weeks, beginning mid-July.

“Our biggest challenge so far is definitely funding. The program is free to the students, so we still need funding to pay for instruments and instructors. We depend on grants and donations to keep the program running,” said Jones. “But our biggest accomplishment has been the enthusiasm of the kids. There is just a beam … a fire in them. The parent engagement process is a large part of the success, as well. They come to the rehearsals, practice with the students at home, and support the recitals.

“The most important thing is a revolution and getting these young people engaged. It goes beyond skill; it’s discipline. It’s about learning and applying. There is a whole new type of discipline that music teaches and adds to the overall cultural enrichment of these children,” Jones said. “My goal is to see 100 Black and Brown children playing the violin.”

For more information on the Watts-Willowbrook Boys and Girls Club and the Music Conservatory visit http://wwbgc.net/