Saturday afternoons inside The West Kensington Ministry are filled with the voices of excited young kids and the melodies floating off of the instruments they are so diligently learning to play.
The West Kensington Ministry music program began within the last year and was put together by Caroline LaRochelle with the help of the ministry’s pastor, Rev. Adan Mairena.
The program runs every Saturday afternoon and invites kids and their families from around the neighborhood to learn about music and take lessons. The need for a music program in the neighborhood is what drove LaRochelle and Rev. Mairena to put this together.
“We had a lot of students in the area expressing interest in music,” said LaRochelle. “Some of them even had instruments at home in some cases but they didn’t necessarily know where to get music lessons.”
LaRochelle has had the idea of beginning a music program in mind for quite some time but it wasn’t until she met Rev. Mairena at a talent show that she saw it all come together.
The two joined forces to create this program where the kids in the neighborhood could come and spend a few hours on a Saturday learning and enhancing their musical skills. With LaRochelle’s background in piano teaching and Rev. Mairena’s availability of instruments, the music program came to life.
This past summer the program began with LaRochelle teaching piano to only three students, but the program quickly grew when a drummer and various Temple University music students began helping out with lessons.
Dorothy Mackey works as a volunteer teaching private violin classes. Mackey also spends time teaching the kids about music and gives them musical activities to work on while they wait for their lessons.
“It’s great for everyone because they get free lessons and we get experience,” said Mackey. “It’s been really cool.”
Chelsea McCaskill is currently pursuing a masters degree in voice and opera at Temple University. On Saturdays, she gives voice lessons to the kids and helps teach piano.
“It’s hard to make music and I love getting kids that are very into it and try really hard, which they all do,” said McCaskill. “A lot of these kids just want to make music, so it’s great to work with them. They’re all very bright.”
Currently, the music program teaches guitar, piano, drums, voice and general music for the younger students. The program also offers lessons in the trumpet, saxophone and violin.
“At the end of the day we just want them to have exposure,” said LaRochelle. “A lot of them are coming here, just learning new things and listening to new kinds of music. They’re excited. Our hope is just to make it really fun for them.”
– Text, images, and video by Caitlin O’Connell.