Guided by the vision that music uplifts and enriches the community, ESYO created the CHIME program in 2015. Since the beginning, the program has inspired hundreds of young musicians from Schenectady and Albany to embark on a journey towards musical excellence by offering free, ensemble-based music instruction and exciting performance opportunities. ESYO opened the program to middle school students in 2017, and ESYO Seniors DeVaughn, Jay-Era, and Delaney were first in line to join.
"It's been a journey," said DeVaughn, who learned to play double bass in ESYO CHIME. DeVaughn learned about CHIME from his young siblings, who previously enrolled in the program. At first, he wasn't interested in learning a string instrument, but a teaching artist introduced him to the bass, which opened a new door for him to explore. "Time flies," he continued, and I am proud of all of us for being the first graduating class in CHIME. Fellow senior and trumpet player Jay-Era agreed, " it's crazy to think that we are the first-ever CHIME alumni," she said.
ESYO CHIME has offered DeVaughn, Jay-Era, and Delaney something more than just free music lessons. It has extended the opportunity to be part of a community, allowing them to grow as musicians and as citizens. And as they grew, CHIME created opportunities for them to lead and mentor younger musicians who would eventually take their place. DeVaughn recalls his first day in CHIME. "They handed me a bass and said, here, play it." After about one week of lessons, coaching, and rehearsals, DeVaughn made his debut with ESYO's CHIME Symphony Orchestra. "It all worked out," DeVaughn laughed.
That same day Jay-Era walked into CHIME, not knowing what to expect. "The first time I sat down in Symphony [the other students] were able to read the sheet music. I had no idea what I was reading. I didn't even know key signatures," said Jay-Era. Delaney, who learned how to play cello in CHIME, also remembers her whirlwind first day. "I saw all these kids younger than me shredding on their instruments. I stared and asked them, "Can you teach me?" Today, each of them credits their teaching artists and their peers for helping them become the musicians and people they are today. "I wouldn’t be playing at the level I am at now without CHIME," said Delaney. "The staff are there to let you grow and learn things on your instrument. They are there to help you have a positive experience with music overall," she said. "I wouldn't be attending the Crane School of Music in the fall if it wasn't for ESYO CHIME," seconded Jay-Era.
More than their musical accomplishments and experiences, DeVaughn, Jay-Era, and Delaney cherish the relationships forged through the harmonies they created together. "It's a big family, said Jay-Era. It's very welcoming, and you'll never feel out of place when you're in CHIME," she continued. CHIME helped them form strong bonds with each other, their teaching artists, and their peers. The three seniors agree that volunteering as youth mentors and ensemble leaders is the most valuable part of their CHIME experience. "To see the younger kids grow up is insane. Many of them are the same age wewere when we joined CHIME," said Delaney. "Meanwhile, Jay-Era admitted, "I’ve grown so attached to them over the years, they are like my siblings." The feelings are mutual. Simply drop into CHIME at snack time. You’ll hear the laughter and cheers of eager young musicians chatting and sharing their day with DeVaughn, Jay-Era, and Delaney. You may even hear the group jokingly call DeVaughn “grandpa” as he imparts gentle words of wisdom.
The message that the ESYO CHIME Class of 2022 wants to leave is clear: Come, be welcoming, be confident, and push for more. "I would not see myself here without music," said DeVaughn. "I listen to music every day and play my instruments every day. It's a part of me. It’s a connection you have with other people and a connection you have with your inner self.”