Joyce Dawley sees students transformed before her eyes.
"You take a violin and place it in a fourth-grader's hands, and you show them how to hold the bow correctly, how to pull the bow, how to get the right pitch and then add rhythm…well, you change them forever," says Dawley, a music teacher at the Broughal Middle School.
For the past five years, Dawley has seen the diverse and often economically disadvantaged students at the school near the Lehigh campus blossom under her tutelage, and credits the power of music for the metamorphosis.
"It makes a tremendous difference in their lives," says Dawley. "They develop skills they can not only use, but hone over the course of their lifetimes. Music teaches them to focus. It teaches them discipline. It teaches them how to work within a group. It provides an outlet for whatever is troubling them. And it helps them grow academically as well."
The significant role that music can play in the lives of young children has not been lost on a group of students in Lehigh's Kappa Kappa Psi music honor society, which recently donated $1,000 for use as seed money for the middle school's under-funded instrument program.
Inspired by that group's generosity, Lehigh's Inter-Fraternity Council also presented a check representing $900 in donations to the Broughal instrument fund. It was presented by Jonathan Silverman, community relations chair for the council, who sought donations from friends, colleagues and the larger community.
"Jonathan worked extremely hard at the end of the semester when he heard that the Broughal students were struggling to meet their fundraising goals," said Kim Carrell-Smith, an adjunct history professor at Lehigh who was working with Broughal group to raise funds. "This was really a community building experience, and both the music honor society and inter-fraternity council exhibited compassion and enthusiasm. Lehigh is very fortunate to have such thoughtful and responsive students, and so is the South Side community."
Michelle H. Judd, president of Kappa Kappa Psi, felt that her group's donation was an investment in the next generation of musicians.
"We all know how expensive fostering a love and respect of music can be," she says "As part of a group that works with the Broughal students, I've found this interaction to be very rewarding. Being able to help the students at the beginning level and showing them that there are benefits to playing down the road is extremely exciting."
Judd and her fellow music honor society members were well aware of the needs of the Broughal students, who often have limited funds for instruments or lessons. She learned more about the Broughal students' financial plight through Carrell-Smith.
Judd is also one of several students who regularly donate their time to work with the students after school and provide ongoing guidance and support for their musical efforts.
"The kids just adore them," says Dawley. "I mean, these are kids in fourth through eighth grade, and the idea of Lehigh students -- these really cool college kids -- spending time with them is tremendously inspiring."
Judd's group is also hoping their donation will spur other departments within Lehigh University to do the same, with the ultimate goal of raising enough money for roughly 60 music students at Broughal to attend a program in Williamsburg, Va., this summer.
It's an overnight trip and a really big deal to these kids," explains Dawley. "They have to excel in their schoolwork as well as in their music, so it's a motivational thing as well."
For Judd, the rewards are intrinsic.
"We appreciate the role music played in all our lives," she says. "We were only too happy to be a part of their musical journey."
Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2002