Union Junior Creates Music Education Program

Managing Editor

INSPIRING CHILDREN: In 2014, Union High School junior Stephanie Royer, pictured in left photo, created Music & Me, a nonprofit organization that focuses on providing classical music education to children ages 4-10. Royer is a classically-trained musician who plays piano and violin. During the summer months, Royer takes her music education program to local Community Action Project and child care locations, including KinderCare and the Little Light House.

EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers

For many high school students, the summer months are the time to step away from the academic rigors of education; for others, it’s a time to further their efforts to receive college acceptance or gain scholarships through community activities, studying, academic camps and sports.

For Union High School junior Stephanie Royer, though, her summers have become about using her love of music to inspire young ones through her nonprofit organization Music & Me.

Royer grew up with parents who encouraged her and her older sister, Daniella, to take an interest in classical music. Both girls play piano and violin.
Stephanie Royer began piano lessons at five years old and took up violin in the second grade.

Royer moved with her family to Tulsa from South Carolina, when she was a freshman in high school.

“Moving here during high school was tough, but music was my anchor,” Royer says. “Even if you’ve had a bad day, you can still come home and play your instrument and play how you’re feeling.”

She and her sister also joined a local community orchestra soon after arriving in Tulsa, which brought about a number of benefits, Royer says.

“Music was how I got rooted in the community, and I met my best friend there (in the orchestra).”

However, it was Royer’s recognition of many children’s lack of access and exposure to classical music and instruments that led her to create Music & Me, which focuses on providing classical music education to children ages 4-10.

“The earlier that kids are introduced to music, that’s what keeps them interested in music as they get older,” she says. “And if kids are underprivileged or their parents don’t encourage them, then they’re most likely not going to be exposed to music or continue (taking lessons).”

In addition, music provides many opportunities for college scholarships, which is a great incentive for those with difficult backgrounds, she says.

As Royer began to contemplate all of the value that music offers, she began thinking about how she could help to provide classical music education to young ones, and she began contacting local organizations, including Community Action Project ().

That led her sister and her, in the summer of 2014, to two Tulsa locations where they shared classical instruments with about 200 children.

Royer increased that number, during the summer of 2015, to eight and child care locations, including KinderCare locations and the Little Lighthouse, and reached 1,000 children.

“The majority of these kids didn’t even know what a piano is,” Royer says.
Royer brings her music education program to organizations from June to August. She and her volunteers typically spend two days with each group of children, introducing them to the piano and violin.

Children receive violins made out of paint sticks, chopsticks, and cardboard and paper print-outs of piano keys to teach them music notes. “We teach them how to properly hold a violin and its different parts and the technique of both instruments,” Royer says.

She also brings along violins and keyboards to allow the children to see what it feels like to play on the real instruments.

“The kids love it,” she says.

It’s no surprise, then, that word of Royer’s program is spreading, and there are many schools interested in being included during the upcoming summer.

However, Royer is maintaining focus on her original intent: “While we have a lot of interest from many organizations, we want to focus on organizations for underprivileged kids, because those are the children who are more likely not to gain early exposure to classical music.”

For summer 2016, Royer’s plan is to reach 2,000 children.

In addition to reaching children that she has not reached previously, “I would also like to go back to some of the same locations as last summer in order to provide additional education to the same kids,” she says.

In the meantime, after receiving approval from Union High School administrators, Royer plans to spend part of her lunchtime during the current spring semester to bring music to Union’s special education students.

“I love working with special education students. And music is a great way for them to express themselves,” she says. “They are so happy when they’re playing music.”
Since Royer began her music education efforts in 2014, she has picked up a number of helpers, including some of her friends who play instruments and her friends’ parents.

Currently, about eight students and four parents help out with Music & Me.
“My friends who are helping see how satisfying it is,” she says.

Royer’s volunteers provide some relief for Royer when she has other academic or sports-related commitments vying for her time, such as with the girl’s golf team, of which she is a member.

However, her focus on Music & Me remains, with her hopes of expanding the program. Why? Because she understands the far-reaching effects of early music education, and she sees the joy it brings to the children.

“At the end of the day, you’re tired, your voice is hoarse, your back hurts from bending down all day, but when you see the kids so eager to play the instruments, it’s so rewarding.

“If I wasn’t doing this during the summer, I would probably be sitting at home watching Netflix, and this is so much better than Netflix.”

Updated 01-25-2016

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