Creating opportunities for students with music

Valerie Davis loves the feedback she gets from the students who complete Great Sounds Promotions’ annual Youth Education Music Workshops. “The students just love it,” she said. “The feedback is extremely positive.”

The workshops each year provide about 100 local junior high and high school students the chance to work closely with local and national musicians. The program would be difficult to host without the support of the Quad Cities Community Foundation.

This year, Great Sounds Promotions was a recipient of a grant made possible by the Community Foundation’s Community Impact Fund. The grant provided transportation and meals for the students, as well as artist workshop fees. The Community Foundation has supported Great Sounds Promotions in the past, Davis said, adding that it has made a big difference in how they operate. “Without the funding, it would be really difficult to do this,” she said. “It means we can do a lot more.”

For the workshops, students work with artists for one day and then attend a concert put on by the artists for the local community the following day. The organization provides affordable arts and entertainment opportunities for under-served areas. They use music as an educational and therapeutic tool for youth and adults with forms of disabilities. 

A recent workshop focused on jazz education, including jazz appreciation, rhythm skills, the theory and practice of improvisation, arranging and history. Each workshop hosted is designed to help students with musicianship, performance and stage etiquette. A student from a recent workshop said the workshop helped them push past insecurities, Davis said. “I was told it was a reminder to dream big, and not let anyone tell you that you cannot do something that you love.” 

It’s more important than ever, Davis said, to provide the workshops. “Schools have cut the arts budgets so much,” she said. 

Local schools administrators have shown support for the program for that reason. “Students don’t get an opportunity to have one-on-one time with musicians—to make those connections with other artists,” she said. “This is an opportunity to meet people.”

Great Sounds Promotions is also focused on reaching low-income students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to access specialized music lessons or opportunities. In addition to the workshops, students enjoy a concert after the workshop, providing them with a free opportunity to watch the musicians they worked with in action. The students, Davis said, are often excited and overwhelmed.

The concert is a great way to bring a high-quality, cultural event to the Quad Cities. It’s an experience that many of the students hope to return to again and again. “They love it, and they look forward to this every year,” she said.

Melanie JonesStudents, Grant