Orchkids, short for Orchestra kids, is a program of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, developed by Marin Alsop, the symphony’s music director. It was adapted to fit Baltimore from a Venezuelan program known as ‘El Sistema’ which is a successful model of just how a music program, started early, can change the lives of a nation’s neediest kids. Orchkids has been recognized on CBS’ 60 Minutes, PBS, New York Times, Washington Post and received the 2013 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from First Lady Michelle Obama.

(Photo Courtesy of Nick Skinner)

(Photo Courtesy of Nick Skinner)

Nick Skinner, believes fervently in the concept of music education as a means of social change. He began with Orchkids when it was only 30 kids; it has now grown to serve about 825 kids in more than five schools in East and West Baltimore who otherwise would not have access to musical instruments or music instruction.

Skinner is now director of operations for Orchkids; he has a B.A.in Music Education and Trumpet Performance from the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins Institute.

What inspired you to become involved with Orchkids?

“Arts administration uses my passion for the arts and understanding of business operations to run a program like OrchKids, and allows me to make a difference in the communities of West and East Baltimore.”

How does your educational background relate to your current role?

“In a lot of ways, my educational background relates to my current role, and in some of the ways it doesn’t. As an integral part of the creation of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s OrchKids program, I helped design a framework that uses music education as a vehicle for social change. This process utilized my music education degree and previous experience teaching music.”

“As the program has grown since its inception back in 2008 from 30 to 825 children, my role has changed to now handle the business operational components of the OrchKids program.”

How has your education helped to further your career and contribute to your success?

“My Peabody music education degree has helped to further my career by providing the foundation upon which everything since has been structured. My music education degree led to work in schools, which then led to my initial role in the OrchKids program as site coordinator.”

“Music, however, plays such an integral role in the operations of OrchKids that it would be difficult to be successful in this role without that background.”

What is some advice you can offer others looking to go into music education or arts administration?

“Arts administration can be very rewarding. I have been successful because I found the opportunity to combine my passion for social change through music education with my analytical business operations skills.”

“My advice is to find something you are passionate about and understand how that can fit into a career path. Have a plan!”

Susan Brown originally spent many years in banking/finance before confronting her addictions. She has now been in recovery for 20 years. Her current interests, in which she has several certifications, are metaphysics and the healing arts. She has written for Examiner.com since 2009 and also writes for Om Times.


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