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Snapshot: Penn’s Woods Music 4 Kids helps young people experience art in a new way

by on April 25, 2019 11:32 AM

Music, in all its forms, touches people’s souls. Take classical music, for instance. It might not be your “jam,” but once you hear it at a concert, it might make a memory that lasts in your mind for a lifetime.

That’s Debbie Trudeau’s goal for children of all ages who attend Penn’s Woods Music 4 Kids. PW4Kids, for short, is a space for youths who are eager and curious to experience music in a new way.

Trudeau is one of five musicians in the Allegría Ensemble who present these sessions around Centre County. Trudeau is a violinist and violist, joined by Sally Williams Minnich (violin), Mark Minnich (violin), Robyn Dixon Costa (oboe and English horn), and Johnathan Dexter (cello).

The sessions give children more than a chance to learn about music and the arts; they allow them to experience the music firsthand, open their eyes, ask questions, and be inspired.

The PW4Kids sessions are free admission and happening around the community in May and June at familiar places like Discovery Space and Schlow Centre Region Library in State College, the Children’s Garden at Centre County Library in Bellefonte, and Holt Library in Phillipsburg (a new addition this year).

“My favorite part about PW4Kids is when folks come up afterwards and share how much they enjoyed it and ask questions like, ‘Where are you playing next?’” says Trudeau.

It’s the familiar faces and connections made that keep the children and parents coming back for more, she says.

It’s something different that children can look forward to being a part of. Trudeau notes how some children thought they wouldn’t like it, but ended up really enjoying their time with the ensemble.

“Do you remember your first concert? That’s the impact you’ll never forget, so for these kids it’s about creating a connection at a tender age,” says Trudeau.

Her own love for music began when she was 8 years old. It came naturally to her because her father and grandfather were avid musicians.

“I wanted to become as good of a violinist as my dad,” she says. “We’d play duets together and classical music would constantly be playing in our home; it was so fun!”

Trudeau, who has a master’s degree from the New England Conservatory of Music, played professionally in the Syracuse Symphony for 20 years and in the Glimmer Glass Opera Company in the summer in upstate New York. Now she plays with the Pennsylvania Chamber Orchestra and in the adult Penn’s Woods Music Festival.

“Music is what I do and have been doing for so long that I can’t imagine life without it, I can’t not listen … it’s like breathing,” says Trudeau.

PW4Kids started in 2007 when the festival became fully secure and established.

“Creating PW4Kids seemed like a natural addition of smaller settings to make music and have discussions more accessible,” says Trudeau.

She is a trained teaching artist, developing these programs for new audiences, including local students.

“As a teaching artist, it isn’t my job to teach kids what this instrument and music is, but it means to give them an experience that when they hear that piece again, it means something more to them,” she says.

Trudeau says she hopes PW4Kids “continues in perpetuity and that it brings in new audiences because that is the only way the arts are going to thrive.”

Funding support for PW4Kids comes from the donors including Bill Jaffe, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Music Performance Trust Fund, a Centre Foundation Field of Interest Grant, and gifts to the Julie Horney Memorial Fund. Trudeau hopes that folks will continue to support these music experiences for all ages.

“Spending the time with these kids keeps me young and fresh; they truly keep me on my toes,” says Trudeau.


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