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MUSICIANS OFFER KIDS A DIFFERENT BEAT

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Good music is better than drugs, gangs and violence, say Utah Symphony members who donate time to perform at seven Salt Lake-area elementary schools.

The musicians hope to provide good role models and what they consider a productive habit (listening to good music) for at-risk students attending the schools, located in areas noted for commonplace drug trafficking, gangs and violence.Scott Lewis, a violist, said the tremendous response has generated repeated performance invitations.

The musicians not only uplift but also educate. They encourage questions and prefer to perform for small audiences so all can participate.

A woodwind quintet performing at Washington Elementary recently began the concert by introducing fourth and fifth graders to the oboe, bassoon, flute, french horn and clarinet. The artists demonstrated how each instrument works, then played solos allowing the kids to hear the different sounds.

The performers also pick the pieces. They prefer short, livelier songs, like the distinctive kids' tune "Peter and the Wolf," that kids can identify.

A string quartet selected composed-in-America music as well as melodies with American Indian and African-American influences for a Lincoln Elementary performance this month.

The quartet began with a piece by Salt Lake composer Marie Baker Nelson to introduce the kids to made-in-Utah music.

"We want to show the kids it (music) is not elitist, that it is not just for old people," said John Eckstein, a cellist who performed at Lincoln.

The symphony would also like to start an after school hands-on workshop to teach interested kids how to play the instruments.

A documentary film, "Something Within Me," shown at the Sundance Film Festival, revealed that children who play instruments have better self-esteem and are less likely to drop out of school and abandon their dreams, said Byron Russell, associate director of development for the Utah Symphony.

Symphony musicians initiated the program last fall, said Sandy McOmber, the symphony's acting executive director, and each donates time to play for the kids.