In the 10 months she has led Kids’ Orchestra, Jody Hanet has overseen remarkable growth. Participation escalated from about 70 students to over 500. “We nearly had a logistical nightmare on our hands,” she says. “We had to hire over 50 teachers, site coordinators and bus helpers. Hundreds of instruments had to be purchased.” It all fell into place, though, with “tremendous” community support, and Hanet assembled a team to help her implement her five-year strategic plan. Hanet came to Kids’ Orchestra with exceptional experience and training in musical education and leadership. She envisions the Baton Rouge program becoming “the catalyst for offering quality music education to multitudes of children across the state.” Her motivation exceeds a belief in the intrinsic value of learning to play an instrument; she knows the personal and social dividends for participants are incalculable. “Music serves as a medium for all children to work together regardless of their home, school, culture or socioeconomic status,” she says. “Being part of an orchestra takes team effort. The focus becomes the production of the music, and differences are all but forgotten.”
Because I have the opportunity to expose lots of children to the wonders of music and possibly make a difference in their lives.
Stop worrying, be happy and laugh a lot.
Growing Kids’ Orchestra from around 70 kids to over 500 in the course of a few months, while maintaining a quality program.
If I can make a positive difference in the lives of others, I am on the road to success.
I was once told my ship tends to get off course but eventually makes it to the other shore, so perhaps I should work to keep my ship on course. Every day I work to keep my ship on course.
At this time three years ago, we were coordinating the move back to Baton Rouge to support my sister as she was dying of breast cancer. All the while I was teaching in Phoenix, Arizona, and commuting to New York City to finish a master’s degree and feeling like I was throwing my children “under the bus” by uprooting them from their home. May God bless my husband, Michel, and my children for their understanding. My sister is now my angel in heaven.
If I was forced to leave Kids’ Orchestra, then I would have to become one of the piano player/singers in the piano bar at Pat O’Brien’s in New Orleans.
Every day, I am in the presence of a great leader not only locally but on a national and international level as well. Ms. Nanette Noland, the founder of Kids’ Orchestra, is beyond a role model. She is savvy in the way she conducts business and has a huge heart for philanthropy.
Sadly, the downward spiral of emphasis on the arts in our schools and the understanding of its role in educating the whole child.
I was a vocal music education major. I studied voice and piano, and I sang in the A Cappella Choir. When I was 4 years old, my mother found me playing “Jesus Loves Me” on the piano. After that, I played a lot for my Sunday school class. My early years were mostly playing by ear. I loved to listen to a song and go play it on the piano. I learned to read music before I learned to read words, although I found written music stifling. I much preferred my own interpretation of music that I heard. Transitioning to the study of classical music was a challenge. I still rely heavily on my ear today.
As far back as I can remember I wanted to be a music teacher. In high school, Marjorie Blocker, my choir teacher, was a wonderful model. Patricia Reed, my supervising teacher when I was a student teacher, was such a fantastic teacher. I still use her techniques 28 years later. Dr. Mary Ellen Junda of the University of Connecticut was my master teacher for two years. She was the one who taught me to teach. I was living and teaching in New Jersey at the time. I auditioned and was selected to study with her through a program supported by a foundation in New Jersey. Only 12 teachers were chosen from across the state. The master teacher program and studying at the Kodaly Musical Training Institute molded and shaped me into the teacher I am today.
After graduating from LSU in 1986, why did you choose to attend the Kodaly Musical Training Institute in Hartford, Conn., for certification in teaching? What distinguishes this school from other music schools, and how did your training there refine your approach to music education?
While studying with Dr. Junda, I spent my summers at the Kodaly Musical Training Institute in a concentrated study of the Kodaly concept of teaching music. Zoltan Kodaly was a famous Hungarian composer who developed pedagogy for teaching music to children based on sight-singing. I went to KMTI because many of the professors there were Hungarian and had studied with Kodaly. I wanted to study his pedagogy in its purest form. One of my favorite quotes of Kodaly: “Let us take our children seriously! Everything follows from this. … Only the best is good enough for a child.” We are working to implement this approach in Kids’ Orchestra.
I spent 16 years in New Jersey, where I taught in some of the finest public and private schools in the country. I had lots of opportunities to do great things with my students. One of the most memorable was singing with children in an off-Broadway show with Fred Inkley, the original beast from the show Beauty and the Beast. I also built a 120-voice choir and handbell choir at a large Catholic church. I was part of the “grassroots” of starting a private elementary school where I served in many capacities: I was director of curriculum, served on the board, acted as Interim Head of School and started its first parent-teacher association.
My husband was then transferred to Scottsdale, Arizona, where we lived for nine years. I took some time off to raise my children but continued to be involved with music and children. While in Arizona my husband ran his own company and insisted I get involved. Working in the company was a great training ground for learning to put budgets together, strategic planning, and many other leadership skills that I use today. In my free time, I helped raise funds for a nonprofit called Art for the Heart for Abused Children. I was the children’s choir director at a church and also the training choir conductor for the Phoenix Boys Choir. I was then recruited to teach music in an inner-city school district of Phoenix. I decided to finish my master’s degree I had started at Bank Street College in New York City at the same time. I spent a summer in New York studying and commuted for a year while teaching. I completed a master’s in educational leadership as I was moving to Baton Rouge.
When I arrived here, I started teaching at Wedgewood Elementary and became the children’s choir director at St. James Episcopal Church. It was at St. James that I found Kids’ Orchestra, or perhaps they found me.
I assumed the role as executive director ten months ago. I could see so much potential in Kids’ Orchestra and visualized Kids’ Orchestra as the catalyst for offering quality music education to multitudes of children across the state.
Kids’ Orchestra draws inspiration from Dr. José Antonio Abreu’s El Sistema, a network of children and youth orchestras, music centers, and workshops that have been a powerful and successful model of personal and social change in Venezuela for over 30 years. Kids’ Orchestra joins the lengthy list of El Sistema–inspired programs dedicated to promoting the growth and development of qualities like self-worth, expressivity, cooperation, responsibility and empathy in children across the country. We accomplish this by using the El Sistema methodology, curriculum, and techniques, which emphasize playing and working together to produce an ensemble musical offering of the highest quality of execution and aesthetic value.
Music serves as a medium for all children to work together regardless of their home, school, culture or socioeconomic status. Being part of an orchestra takes team effort. The focus becomes the production of the music, and differences are all but forgotten.
How many students are in KO this academic year? How have enrollment numbers changed since the organization’s first operational semester, fall 2011? Are transportation logistics—for children who need to travel from their own school to another for practice—a factor in enrollment?
The organization started small with around 40 kids participating. Last year the numbers were around 70. This year we engaged in a dynamic style of recruiting by going into the schools and giving lots of children from different areas the opportunity to play and touch the instruments in Instrument Petting Zoos. Our organization grew to over 500 students. We nearly had a logistical nightmare on our hands. We had to hire over 50 teachers, site coordinators and bus helpers. Hundreds of instruments had to be purchased. We had to quickly rethink how to execute the program and streamline it across eight different school sites. Students from eight other schools had to be transported to the school sites. Safety was a grave concern. We hired a professional bus company that is licensed, bonded and insured to transport our precious cargo—the children. We have 16 schools officially involved in the program and children from eight more schools who participate as well. Their parents provide the transportation. Next year we will grow to 750 participants, with the potential of reaching as many as 1,000 children across Baton Rouge.
We are trying to reach all areas of Baton Rouge. We strategically reach out to schools in different areas to try and serve as much of the community as possible. Word is spreading quickly about Kids’ Orchestra. We barely have to go out and recruit schools for next year. We have almost reached our quota for next year. We found that we need to recruit the children first through our Instrument Petting Zoos, then to the parents through events at the school, email blasts, and sending out brochures in backpacks. Our best advertisement is the music of our Kids’ Orchestra kids. At concerts and elsewhere, other children see and hear our kids play their instruments: It’s a powerful tool for recruitment. One project I am particularly excited about is starting a Kids’ Orchestra-Kids’ Choir next year at Christian Life Academy. We will be opening the choir to any child in the parish who wants to participate. Sarah Bartolome, professor of music education at LSU, is going to be the conductor.
I have been called the “functional executive director.” My first duty was to write a five-year strategic plan. Next I had to create a budget to support the plan. In so doing, I hired a director of development to create and implement a blueprint for funding. We now have a strong team: an artistic director, a program director, a program manager, a development director and myself to implement the strategic plan.
In addition to forecasting for the future, and implementing the strategic plan, I oversee the day-to-day needs of the organization. I am involved in the music portion as much as possible. I oversaw the writing of the curriculum to ensure it was aligned with the National Music Standards. I work with the Foundations teachers (kindergarten and first grade) on the actual implementation of the program by observing and holding mini-workshops for them. I have done lots of classroom demonstrations for teachers. I have also been the clinician at our professional development workshops for our teachers on process, procedure and classroom management. There have been many times that I have taught classes because teachers were absent. I love those opportunities to be back in the classroom. I believe that hands-on teacher-training is vital to our program and am thankful that I can step in and help in that area. It also helps me stay in touch with what is happening in our schools. “No second-rate education for underprivileged kids! Only first-rate!” is the El Sistema motto.
We have been blessed with two wonderful staff members: Susan Montandon, our program director, and Dr. Jovan Zivkovic, our artistic director. They are vital to our recruitment process of hiring quality faculty. Ms. Montandon and Dr. Zivkovic are “plugged in” to the music community and have been able to recruit most all of our teachers through word of mouth. All of our teachers/musicians are contracted to work for us. We have teachers who are pursuing their master’s degrees or doctorates; some are certified music teachers in and around the parish; we even have teachers who are professors at Southeastern Louisiana University and some that drive in from New Orleans. Our faculty members are some of the finest musicians in the state and are polished performers as well as dedicated teachers. We are honored to have such a strong team of music professionals working with the children of Kids’ Orchestra.
We are slowly and carefully growing our donor base. First, we had to prove to the community that we are a viable organization that is making an impact, and that we have longevity. We have a scholarship program and an instrument donation program. Anyone can donate to our scholarship program and our instrument program. They can even donate an instrument! We are grateful to have the support of the Credit Bureau of Baton Rouge Foundation, the Pennington Foundation, the Nanette Noland Foundation, the Albemarle Foundation, the D’Addario Foundation, the NOLA Heritage Fund, the Every Kid a King Fund, Classics for Kids, the Junior League of Greater Baton Rouge, the Baton Rouge State Fair Foundation, the Greater Baton Rouge Arts Council, Walmart, Target, and the Powell Group Fund. Creating a large donor base, writing grants, planning events and so on has become a full-time job. Cindy Macha, the area president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, is now our development director. She is leading our fundraising endeavors. Last year we held a car raffle. This year we held our first fundraising event, collaborating with another nonprofit, Manners of the Heart, on an afternoon tea and auction held at the City Club on April 13. I am always available to speak to anyone or group about the great things that are happening in Kids’ Orchestra.
The outpouring of community support has been tremendous. Baton Rouge has welcomed our young organization with a show of support from so many local funders and collaborators. We have a lot of community partners. Christian Life Academy lets us use their facilities for All-Orchestra rehearsals once a month and for our large concerts; Success Labs has helped us with strategic planning; St. James Episcopal Church and the Dunham School are our go-to helpers. All of the schools where we rehearse are so supportive. LSU Manship College of Mass Communication has helped us with mass media; the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra has been a great collaborator. We are always in need of volunteers. If you love children and music, come join us as a volunteer!
The entire Kids’ Orchestra participates in the year-end concert. We have two full orchestras, and all children play a few songs in their instrument groups. We call those “showcase” pieces. Kindergarteners and first-graders—participants in our Foundations Class—also perform by singing and playing on simple instruments. The performance we had in December was wildly successful; we had over 1,000 people in the audience. The coordination of such a huge concert involves our entire staff. We all work together to produce the concert. I am usually in the front introducing each group. In addition to our large concerts, we have a smaller chamber group that performs around Baton Rouge. It played at our afternoon tea fundraiser at the City Club. It played at the BREC Baton Rouge Zoo’s Birthday Party. And one of the most exciting events was playing at MPAC! We are always open to performing at events; just give us a call.
A cup of Community Coffee and no accidents on the interstate.
If you get in my car, you could hear anything: Samuel Barber, Stan Getz, One Republic, Dr. Dre, Annie Lennox, Gypsy Kings, Eminem, Saint-Saëns, Amy Grant, Pharell Williams … I could go on.
My Education by Susan Choi and the latest Music Educators Journal of peer-reviewed articles.
Pope Francis, Yo-Yo Ma and Michelle Obama—we need to talk about education.
Sit down and have dinner with my family and share stories about our day.
I like to watch LSU football when they are winning. And I love the seventh-inning stretch at baseball games.
The Princess Bride, Shakespeare in Love, and Beasts of the Southern Wild
I use the app Shazam all the time. It can identify almost any piece of music that is playing.
Inside St. James Episcopal Church.