Meet Meghan Ruel, violin instructor at Harmony Project Phoenix
How long have you been with Harmony Project PHX for, and how long have you been instructing Orquesta Infantil?
I started teaching for Harmony Project PHX in March 2017, and I’ve been instructing the Infantil students for about a year and a half.
What has your experience been like conducting this group?
Orquesta Infantil came together this year for consistent weekly rehearsals with students from all over the Phoenix valley. This experience has been one of the most positive in my life. When I was their age, my youth orchestra conductors were very influential in guiding my life path as a musician. These students are full of positive attitude, drive, and are all unique little comedians! They make an early Saturday morning one hundred percent worth it.
How often do you all meet? How many students are in the group? What is their age range?
I see some students 3 times a week in their after school program, and our full orchestra rehearses every Saturday morning. Most students are between the ages of 10 and 13, but we have a few younger students who are working hard too! Our Infantil family has 25-30 string players.
Can you highlight any memorable or humorous moments working with these students?
Aside from students giggling every time I accidentally throw my baton up in the air...
Students often misinterpret some new word I am trying to teach them, and their translations are very entertaining. A classic example is pizza-avocado instead of “pizzicato”, or Costco instead of “Tchaikovsky”. If it’s not a funny misinterpretation, it’s my dramatic singing.
How important is music in childhood development?
How shall I answer this in a few sentences...
Our music community at Harmony Project is one that specifically invites children of all ages and abilities to communicate non-verbally and to listen to each other, regardless of their personal or social connection outside of music. The art of listening is one that will reinforce their skills as teenagers and adults; to express their desires, to defend their rights, and to mindfully consider the voices of others, as they have learned to do in an orchestra from a young age. Yes, this “music education” develops their social and cognitive abilities beyond belief, but it also creates an alternative pathway to happiness that might have otherwise never been found.