Music Flows Through Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter

When Advocates for Children direct care staff member David Baker first picked up a guitar 10 years ago, he had no idea how it might change his life. The Cass High School graduate and computer science professional knew he wanted to bring that same experience to the children who live at the Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter.

In October 2015 Baker sought change in his life, following the advice of friends and joining a local church. He knew he wanted to do something more, but he wasn’t sure what that purpose or change was yet.

“I considered being a paramedic, a pilot, a lot of things,” Baker said of that time. “Working with children was never really part of the plan.”

Yet he kept being drawn in that direction. He met people who worked in human services, reconnected with old friends who were involved in helping children live better lives, and prayed for direction in his own life. He soon found himself serving as a volunteer mentor and tutor at Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter. His involvement led to a part-time job and a few months after that, full-time. It was during that time that he began to research how to provide the best experience he could to the children living in the shelter.

“I presented my idea to teach music to the kids at the shelter because I believe in it,” explained Baker. “I wanted to provide more opportunities for the youth here, help them find their talents, and foster that into a love for music and learning. There are benefits to learning music early that go beyond that, including academic, physical, and creative. Music therapy also reduces stress, and has been found to speed up healing in those who have experienced emotional, mental, or physical trauma.”

The curriculum includes both theory and hands on playing, genre and style choices, as well as warm up exercises. Kept informal, the lessons emulate Baker’s own experience learning. In addition to the guitar, residents have been practicing the harmonica and piano. Some have expressed an interest in voice lessons too. In the future Baker would like to look at performance or recital opportunities.

Lyndsey Wilson, director of the Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter, said she was thrilled with the concept and early outcomes of the program. “I was excited to hear about this possibility. I love seeing the kids learn and develop new skills. We have several residents who have instruments, but they have never been given the opportunity to take lessons due to financial and time constraints. I knew this is something several of our residents would love.”

The lessons are optional, but almost all the current shelter residents have taken part in them. Baker said he was surprised when one morning five or six of the residents decided to practice together rather than watch television or play video games for that half hour. Wilson also expressed surprise over the program’s popularity.

“I did not realize how many residents would be interested in this program,” she said. “We have seen so many youth step outside of their comfort zones and try something new that they would never have tried before.”

 

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