Ieong Cheng “Katy” Ho, who’s originally from Macau, returned there this summer with two musician friends (and a dozen other volunteers) to offer music workshops, classes, and performances to more than 120 underprivileged children. Her Project MusiKid was partly funded by a Juilliard Summer Grant.
The first place we worked was the longest and largest—a center for children with special needs. The children there were very involved and showed a lot of interests and talents despite their limitations in some areas. The second was a center for lower-income families. The kids there were very quiet and well-behaved and made the greatest progress in learning. The last place was a children’s home. This group of children was very eager to answer questions and try new things—they also were constantly seeking attention. The learning styles, behavior, and progress of the three groups were very different, and I discovered that there is not an absolute way to teach or to learn—the music is special in different ways to different children, but it was a very powerful tool for teaching all of them. Last year, I read in The Journal about bassoon alum Midori Samson’s Summer Grant project in Kenya, and I thought it was a really wonderful thing to do. I had always wanted to use music to make a better society, but it was just an idea. Then I talked to Midori about her project and discovered my passion for founding one of my own—and I learned that I could apply for a Juilliard Summer Grant for a project like this, which made it realistic. I strongly believe that music is a powerful way to open up kids’ creativity and imagination, and that it will give them strength, self-confidence, and happiness.
If I were to do the project again, I would still have different lesson plans and goals for the children at the various organizations. But I would also love to have a performance day on which all the organizations have a joint concert so that all the children can watch each other’s performances, exchange ideas, make new friends, and build up their confidence.
This experience has definitely shaped me as a musician as well as an individual and teacher. It pushed me to do something out of my comfort zone and be creative and organized throughout the process of contacting the venues, managing the details, and planning the lessons. I had to be a good teacher, musician, and group leader at the same time, which isn’t something that you usually do when you are a student. I learned what worked—and what didn’t work—for different groups of kids, such as what teaching styles and music they did and didn’t like. Project MusiKid has definitely given me a real life lesson.
Project: Project MusiKid; music programs for underprivileged children.
Dates: June 3-August 8.
Juilliard Participant: Second-year master's violist Ieong Cheng "Katy" Ho (B.M. '13).