Darryl Chamberlain was determined to create a youth orchestra come hell or high water.
In these uncertain times, where public school budget cuts are impacting African American students perhaps more than ever before, Chamberlain, a history teacher in Kansas City, Missouri, began thinking out of the box.
I’m glad he did.
Chamberlain wants to change young lives through music but he had limited resources. So with the money he received playing piano in local churches, Chamberlain bought 70 used instruments, some from pawn shops, and cleaned them up for the students in his class.
The result: The A-Flat Orchestra.
“The A-Flat Orchestra doesn’t have a funding arm behind it,” Chamberlain said, “just wit and ingenuity,” Chamberlain told The Kansas City Star. “And with a little ingenuity you can do anything.”
Chamberlain is delivering on a random act of kindness – a much-needed effort during a time when activities like music could be sacrificed in public schools across the country.
“I’m doing more than teaching music,” Chamberlain, 59, told The Star. “I draw parallels to life situations and help them to understand how music connects to everyday life.”
He has assembled an orchestra of about 15 students so far but Chamberlain’s goal is to have a much larger symphony. He accepts all students regardless of their musical abilities.
Chamberlain is shaping young lives every day and recent studies suggest that Chamberlain’s interaction with black students is critical.
Here is how Johns Hopkins University explains it:
In a new study, low-income Black students who have at least one Black teacher in elementary school are significantly more likely to graduate high school and consider attending college, according to a study co-authored by a Johns Hopkins University economist.
Having at least one Black teacher in third through fifth grades reduced a Black student’s probability of dropping out of school by 29 percent, the study found. For very low-income Black boys, the results are even greater – their chance of dropping out fell 39 percent.
Previous research has shown there are short-term benefits to pairing students with teachers of the same race, but this study, a new working paperpublished by the Institute of Labor Economics, demonstrates the positive impacts of having just one of these teachers can continue over many years.
“Black students matched to black teachers have been shown to have higher test scores but we wanted to know if these student-teacher racial matches had longer-lasting benefits. We found the answer is a resounding yes,” co-author Nicolas Papageorge of Johns Hopkins said in a statement.
“We’re seeing spending just one year with a teacher of the same race can move the dial on one of the most frustratingly persistent gaps in educational attainment — that of low-income black boys. It not only moves the dial, it moves the dial in a powerful way.”
Chamberlain is certainly moving the dial in Kansas City.
“Music students have the lowest rate of teenage pregnancy, lower rates of violent crime,” Chamberlain told The Star. “
Chamberlain is an unsung hero. He’s creatively preparing young black students for the future – one music lesson at a time.