Our Story

Many years ago, Cathy Grant, long time flute teacher and our beloved director, began spending her time travelling to lower income middle schools in the Wichita Metro, giving group flute lessons one day per week, throughout the school year. She would start them with basics, then would eventually progress to their band music in addition to ensemble pieces with multiple parts. As she got to know the students, Cathy discovered that some of them were being raised by grandparents. In their home lives, several of Cathy’s students were facing many challenges every day. The challenges they were faced with included physical and emotional abuse, neglect, not knowing where their next meal would come from, as well as many, many broken promises from the adults in their home lives. Cathy could tell not only by their demeanor but by the way the students dressed, talked and acted that they were desperately looking for a group to fit in with. While it is very common in this age group for kids to forge their way and find a group they belong with, Cathy found that many of these groups do not participate in age-appropriate activities, which may include inappropriate sexual relationships, drugs, alcohol and gang involvement. Her students were already talking about what is often considered “adult” subjects, at a mere eleven or twelve years old. It was then that Cathy realized that in order for her students to internalize what she was teaching them, she needed to be less a “flute” teacher, and more a friend and life mentor. Cathy witnessed first hand the power of playing an instrument held. Playing an instrument lead to being in music classes and ensembles. Cathy knew that the power that music class and ensembles held to not only change lives, but to give a sense of belonging and a sense of community. The first band concert with these kids changed her life, and inspired Cathy to start her journey to create what has now turned into Music Youth Partnership. Cathy’s middle school flute students stood and played 3 Christmas trios, after which they received a standing ovation. Cathy was in the audience, overcome with emotion at the sheer power and possibility resident in that group of kids.

Soon after the concert, she presented the idea of solo festival to her kids, and they were ‘all in’. Each girl picked a solo and Cathy picked an ensemble piece for the group. The students went on field trips to Cathy’s house for Pizza, Pop, and Playing. They played, laughed, ate and played more. Cathy found an accompanist kind enough to donate their time to play for each student. Cathy’s students worked hard, and Cathy was there each week to encourage the girls and push them to their fullest ability. Each student received a “1,” or “2,” rating on their solos, and as a group received a “2,” on their ensemble; however, the “real” award took place deep inside each one of them. Cathy never forgot the feeling of helping those students find a home in music, and knew she had to find a way to reach more kids on a much larger scale.

Music Youth Partnership will bring legendary mentor musicians into classrooms for band, orchestra and vocal music classes to offer a hand to the director. These mentors primary job will be to do sectionals, group, and individual lessons one day per week throughout the school year. The mentors will be behind the scenes as a silent helper to encourage each individual student during the school year. When the eighth graders time to move from the middle school to the high school comes, the board of directors, staff and teachers want, whenever possible, for those same mentors to follow them to continue to deepen the work and continue through to graduation. These teachers are not volunteers; Music Youth Partnership is paying them to be mentors, friends, or if needed, a parental figure. They will change lives. 

Music Youth Partnership will be at one Wichita middle school and one Wichita high school in the band program for the pilot program. The middles school that the mentors will be in feeds directly into the high school chosen, and the same mentors will be at the high school. Their job is to do weekly brass, woodwind, and percussion sectionals. The goal to be in most USD 259 middle schools in the next few years, and eventually every Wichita high school band, orchestra and choral programs.

Music Youth Partnership’s mission is to change lives, improve graduation rates, fill youth music programs and beyond. MYP is not just mentoring musicians to be musicians, but mentoring them in life. We want to set them up for success no matter what field they go into in the future.

There are endless ways that you can help and support Music Youth Partnership. 100% of donations will go to the kids MYP works with. Financial and supply donations are welcome, including instruments and music. Instruments will be repaired and given to students as needed. Every instrument will have a brass plate with Music Youth Partnership and the name of the donor engraved. If you are an instrument teacher and are interested in teaching through Music Youth Partnership, please contact the Board President, Claire Woody, at (316)213-020, or at clairewoody@musicyouthpartnership.org. In addition to being the Board President, Claire is a Wichita Public Schools middle school band director.

If you are a band, orchestra or choir teacher and would like more information on how to get Music Youth Partnership into your classroom, please contact Claire or our Executive Director, Cathy Grant, at (316) 847-2049, or cathygrant@musicpartnership.org

If you have any other inquiries, please feel free to email our secretary, Robyn at robynbellner@musicyouthpartnership.org.