Only two years ago, the young nonprofit Kids’ Orchestra had a small reach, with about 70 children participating. Once Jody Hanet stepped in as executive director in 2013, that number skyrocketed.
Hanet, an LSU grad who taught in New Jersey and Arizona before returning to Baton Rouge, brought the nonprofit directly into local schools for presentations and instrument “petting zoos.” That helped Kids’ Orchestra grow its numbers to 750 students and 70 professional music instructors working in 23 local schools.
Her team is exposing children to music and instruments at a time when music education isn’t a top priority in school systems. Beyond getting their hands on a violin or woodwind for the first time, these kids are learning how to make music together.
“Something magical happens when you perform together,” Hanet says. “All of a sudden, there is this sense of pride.”
Now facing waiting lists of students, she is turning her focus toward fundraising to support Kids’ Orchestra’s programs, three youth orchestras and two recently added children’s choirs. A lot of those donated dollars come from just showing the community what these kids can do, with 12 concerts during the holiday season and more on the schedule in May.
“We’re to the point where funding is leveling off,” Hanet says. “Getting kids is not a problem. We realized early on that this is a need, and that kids want it—parents want it. There’s just not that much instrumental music education for kids, which is a shame, because we’re such a musical place. Our kids in Baton Rouge are musical and talented.”
Best piece of advice
“Set your ship out and focus on getting to the other side.”