Sometimes all it takes is for someone to listen. This is what a Bruin Music Tutor does at site: listen for the correct notes, for the correct tempo. Every Wednesday, a group of UCLA students visits the music program at Daniel Webster Middle School to provide music tutoring to sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. For this group’s continual commitment to these students, the UCLA Volunteer Center Fellows are awarding Bruin Music Tutors the Bruin Heroes Award for Winter Quarter 2011.
The Bruin Music Tutors work with 20 middle school students on their music and play instruments ranging from the saxophone to the piano to the electric guitar and 11 other instruments. They provide the Daniel Webster students an opportunity for personalized musical attention that they would not otherwise have- in the 10 years that the music teacher has been teaching, only 10 students have attended private music classes. Personal tutoring allows students to try solos and improve their musical skills, correcting any mistakes that may not be noticed in the general music class of over 40 students.
“Private lessons are so expensive and it’s hard because [students not taking private lessons] are not on equal footing with others who have had private lessons,” Selfridge said. “It really does illuminate the huge disadvantages that students have to deal with. The goal of the group is to help level the playing field.”
Founded just one-and-a-half years ago by Julia Selfridge, this project was started as a way to provide students who could not afford private music lessons to have a chance to work with a personal tutor on their music. “We provide [our students] with an environment where they can be heard separately,” Selfridge said. “We provide them with someone who has the skills and knowledge to help them and listen to them.”
The program has expanded by collaborating with a piano teacher at the middle school. It also is making an effort to bring tutors to the music classes while school is in session in order to help the other music tutors who don’t attend the after-school session. At UCLA, the program has surpassed its goal of 20 tutors.
Bruin Music Tutors have seen progress from their students, from the student who auditioned successfully for the Honors Orchestra to the student with behavioral issues who never once acted out during the music tutoring session. Even a small amount of time spent working one-on-one with a student results in a marked improvement.
“In groups people will hide behind other people, pretending to play music,” Selfridge said. “We provide a space where they can’t do that, they have to be heard.”