Cultural Trust Helps Introduce Musical Opportunities To Youth


PORTLAND — Give us the next 3 minutes and 29 seconds, and we guarantee you’ll be rewarded with a full heart!

Nothing conveys the incredible impact a donation to the Oregon Cultural Trust can have more than the adorable students in the Eugene-Springfield Youth Orchestras’ (ESYO) String Academy sharing their pride and delight.

Because Oregonians took the time to donate, for which the state of Oregon will reimburse at tax time, the orchestra is a bright spot in the lives of 145 children who might not otherwise have access. 

“Our mission is to provide opportunities for youth to appreciate, experience, and perform orchestral music,” said Holly Spencer, ESYO Executive Director. The grant award will support String Academy, ESYO’s first year program for children who have never played a string instrument before.

Thanks to grant awards like this one from the Cultural Trust, the Eugene-Springfield Youth Orchestras never turns down a family due to financial reasons.

“There are some students I’ve gotten to know through the program who came from families that had really difficult circumstances and orchestra was the bright light in their life,” said Sarah Mendonca, ESYO Board President. “It was the one refuge they had from a stressful and frustrating set of circumstances. It was a place where they felt like they belonged, and they had value — that I think is something you can’t put a price tag on.” 

String Academy offers free and low-cost beginning strings classes in area elementary schools, including the most culturally diverse and those with the highest numbers of minority students in the district. Classes are taught on-site and after school to help working parents avoid transportation barriers. 

“As public education began to change, there were not the opportunities for kids to take music education in schools, and so in particular, our String Academy programs have been able to blossom,” said Kim Hernandez, ESYO Board Vice President and Alumnus.

ESYO removes financial barriers for underserved families by offering the lowest fees in the area for classes and instrument rentals, and scholarships for anyone who needs one.

“We never turn away any family for lack of ability to pay, and so we count on those grants in order to provide those scholarships,“ said Spencer.

Cultural organizations across Oregon will receive more than $2.7 million in funding from the Cultural Trust this year, thanks to the generosity of citizens who invested in the state’s cultural tax credit.

About Author

Carrie Kikel is the Communications Manager for Oregon’s Arts Department, which includes the Oregon Arts Commission and the Oregon Cultural Trust. The Oregon Arts Commission provides statewide grant funding to artists, arts organizations and arts programs. The Cultural Trust raises public and private awareness and investment in arts, heritage, history, humanities and preservation.

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