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Kidznotes: Changing lives, empowering students with orchestral training

On a Friday night in April, Kidznotes held a concert in Durham.

Kidznotes is a nonprofit working in Durham and southeast Raleigh to bring orchestral training to students who don’t traditionally have access to musical opportunities. 

The program is based on the El Sistema model of youth orchestras. It started in Venezuela and now operates around the world. All the K-7 students who participate get 10 free hours a week in music instruction for 40 weeks. 

So why is music instruction important? An association exists between music training and brain development. Students who get such instruction often have higher achievement in school as well as other long-term benefits. The earlier a student gets started, the better he or she can expect to do in life. 


Kids in Kidznotes go to school more often, catch up to their peers faster if they are behind, and are more likely to be A and B students. If you ask these kids about themselves, they are more likely to describe themselves as having self-determination and persistence. 

Kidznotes started in September 2010 with 60 students at three schools in Durham. Five years later, the program now has more than 200 students in five Durham elementary schools.

And it’s spreading to Raleigh. In the fall of 2013-14, 40 Raleigh students participated in a pilot program. Kidznotes is aiming to have a full 100-person orchestra in both cities by 2020.    


Katie Wyatt leads Kidznotes and co-founded the program. 

Wyatt says, “Our focus is as much on striving to reach our numbers goals as it is on bringing immeasurable joy to our students. We want to continue fostering incredible relationships between teaching artists and students.”

“We want to continue creating an environment where our Kidznotes community feels empowered to change the world.”

Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.