For the Clark family, Community Kids Connection proved a godsend. When Edelina Clark, her husband and two children arrived in California a year ago from Montemorelos, Mexico, Clark wasn’t sure she could continue her son’s violin lessons.
“We have no money to pay for classes,” she said. Clark does not work and her husband is a university student. But Community Kids Connection filled the void. Both the couple’s children, Harold Gonzales Clark, age 13, and Melissa Gonzales Clark, age 10, now study violin and piano for free, respectively, with Harold building upon five or six years of lessons he took in Mexico. Melissa also recently took up the viola. “Kathryn invited me here and it has been such a blessing for my family,” Edelina Clark said. “I’m very thankful.”
Knecht performs in local churches with her children who all play stringed instruments and who mentor CKC students. She is also a viola coach for the Claremont Youth Symphony Orchestra. The Knecht children are Alexander Knecht, age 20, and a violin student at La Sierra University studying with Uyeyama; Maria Knecht, age 16, a violinist, violist and vocalist; Talia Knecht, age 13, violinist; and Anselm Knecht, age 10, cellist.
At La Sierra Uyeyama teaches violin, viola, and chamber music. In addition to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Uyeyama plays with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Metamorphosen Chamber Orchestra and other professional groups, and appears in major festivals in Aspen, Colo., Taos, N.M. and the Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, Mass.
The CKC program started out with nine children when it kicked off on Oct. 8, 2008. It grew to an average of 49 children per session during this past year. During 2010-2011, students gave 11 public performances at the Loma Linda Children’s Hospital, the SACHS Neighborhood Health Fair, Loma Linda Medical Center’s East Campus Hospital and elsewhere.
This year, Community Kids Connection has 79 students enrolled with a waiting list of more than 30 children. The students play instruments purchased with donated funds, although some instruments have been given to the program. The children’s families pay a deposit when lessons begin. The money is refunded when they return the instrument upon leaving the program. The children may also take piano lessons on pianos and keyboards available in one of the trailers.
About 95% of the students and their families are Hispanic and Spanish is often their first language. “My Spanish has gone from non-existent to really minimal, which I guess is an improvement,” Knecht joked.
Community Kids Connection’s goals, in addition to providing musical education with its confidence-building benefits, include introducing students to the health sciences. Program leaders have taken students on field trips to chamber music concerts in Redlands and at La Sierra University, and to the Loma Linda University medical simulation center and the university’s School of Pharmacy.