Indianapolis Metropolitan Youth Orchestra, Betty Perry

Betty Perry in front of the Walker Theater.

A little over 20 years ago, musician Betty Perry had the idea to create a program using music as a conduit to provide Indianapolis inner-city youth with opportunities to gain life skills necessary for future economic and social stability, prompting her to found the Indianapolis Metropolitan Youth Orchestra (MYO).

Since 1995, Perry’s vision and her commitment to the young men and women who participate in MYO has provided both music instruction and personal development opportunities to more than 100 Marion County students each year. Every week the students and 10 teachers come together to create a unique learning environment, where communal efforts are rewarded with self-confidence, increased family communication, academic excellence, an appreciation for the arts and friendship.

Perry’s youth in the Bronx prompted both her love of music and her appreciation for how music can lift children out of their circumstances and open doors that are quite frequently closed to families with limited economic means. At a time when most schools are reducing or eliminating their music programs, the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra is filling an artistic and academic gap with Perry at the helm.

Based on the Suzuki method of string instruction, students receive lessons that incorporate instructions (for violin, viola, cello and bass) that develop the physical skills to master the chosen instrument as well as instructions regarding music concepts. Perry also brings members of the community together in collaborative efforts that build connections between the children participating in MYO and the Indianapolis music community as a whole.

In 2004, MYO became part of the Indianapolis Philharmonic Orchestra, thanks in part to the financial and administrative support IPO could provide. Students also work in partnership with Butler University’s Community Arts School. For the past three years, college students from this program have worked with MYO members, teaching private lessons, coaching chamber ensembles, conducting orchestra rehearsals and assisting with recitals, adjudications, set-up and administration.

The diversity of the MYO teachers’ backgrounds is a strong foundation from which many creative ideas and projects, interesting collaborations and healthy friendships have grown. The MYO staff is drawn from a varied pool of professionals, from conductors and solo and orchestral performers to educators and business professionals. With these types of collaborative efforts, Betty Perry and the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of Indianapolis have given thousands of Indianapolis children exposure, training and appreciation of classical music, as well as an appreciation for the kinds of opportunities and rewards skill, practice and diligence provide.

For more details: 317-334-3251 or www.philharmonicindy.org.

— Laura McPhee

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