Sweetie and I dragged our camera gear down to Meiners Oaks Elementary yesterday.  Amy Hagen was teaching a violin class for the kids.  Getting up earlier than usual is tough for Sweetie, but she finds that gazing at the kids faces is worth the loss of sleep.  Well worth it.

The Bravo  program is sponsored by the Ojai Music Festival.  It’s designed to introduce school-age kids to the wonders of music.  We’ve had the pleasure of photographing them and their mentors for several years.  At elementary schools, the junior high, and performance venues throughout the community.  You’d think that by now we’d seen it all.  That we’d become a bit jaded looking at cute kids with brown and white faces.  You’d think they must all look the same by now.  But no, we’re still captivated.  We still look forward to the next opportunity.


 Mr. Knopinski would have been amazed.  Arthur was my band teacher at Chicago’s Von Steuben High School.  I played the trumpet.  Not great, just well enough to get by.  I often think of those four years.  It sticks with you forever.  Even if sometimes it was a drag.  Arthur was a slight, mousy guy, sitting behind his music stand.  Beating time with his baton.  Not a guy you’d want to have a beer with.

The Bravo men and women express a flair and dedication that Arthur seems to have missed.  You can see it in the kids’ faces.  They’re riveted.  No shifting in chairs. No doodling.  No punching the kid next door.  They’re not perfect.  But they’re more into it than they would be in Arthur’s bandroom.

Meiners Oaks is, on a good day, middle income.  The neighborhood kids could tell us stories that would rival many TV soaps.  And that’s what’s so gratifying about Bravo.  It brings light to the eyes of kids who might never have the bucks or the opportunity to attend a concert, much less play a musical instrument.


When we walked into the classroom we were greeted with the sight of twenty-five kids playing the violin.  When I was in grade school, Phillip Ruder was the only kid brave enough to lift a bow.  And these kids could actually play the darn thing.  Itzhak Perlman or Sarah Chang they weren’t.  But someday.  The class ended and twenty-five new kids trooped in and picked up a violin.  Fifty.  Amazing.


They love having their photos taken.  “Hey mister, what are the pictures for?”   “They’re for the Bravo program.  You’ll be helping to promote it.  You’ll be famous.  Smile.”  And they do.  A lot.


8 Responses to “Bravo!”

  1. 1 Harry April 4, 2009 at 10:49 am

    All I can say is Bravo! Great job and cause.


  2. 2 Grand Pa George April 4, 2009 at 11:36 am

    Great Pictures Fred. George


  3. 3 Anne Shrage April 4, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    It is a wonderful program! Thank you for the photos..Kids are so much fun to photograph, aren’t they..What faces!


  4. 4 Joe Thesixpack April 4, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    What’s your angle on this kid-music thing? How much do you charge the kids’ parents for the photos? I bet it’s a high-pressure sell too.

    How do I get in on some of this action?


  5. 5 myrna cambianica April 4, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    bozeman, montana dept. of education runs a similar program … kudos to mieners oaks bravo program and to you for the stunning photographs


  6. 6 Aryna April 4, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    Lovely photos! Will you send this and the photos to OVN?


  7. 7 Jon April 5, 2009 at 9:22 am

    Wonderful, Fred. Your pictures, as usual, capture the intensity of feeling that music can evoke. Bravo!


  8. 8 Dick and Toni April 8, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Really great pictures, Fred. I didn’t know about the Meiners Oaks program. Keep up the good work!
    Is Joe thesixpack a friend of yours, or a random reader? The comment is kind of “Fesser-esk” which makes it hard to tell.


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