articles / Pop Culture

“I Believe” in Berkeley

Classical California KDFC’s vision is to nurture a love of classical music for all. We have made it a major priority to reach out to new audiences who may not have had significant experience with this art form. With public school music programs languishing in many regions, we’ve recently made strides to deepen our commitment to bring live classical music and music curricula to schools and community sites in partnership with other Bay Area organizations.

On March 31st, the station presented its first school assembly, part of a new station initiative called “I Believe.” The project was spearheaded by KDFC evening host and resident artist, pianist Lara Downes. The morning event rocked the auditorium of Longfellow Middle School in Berkeley. More than a hundred music students enjoyed Lara’s performances of works by several long-neglected women composers of color, including Florence Price and Margaret Bonds, presented in commemoration of Women’s History Month. A work Lara played by Bonds called Credo served as the inspiration for an assignment the kids completed prior to the event: composing their own Credo, or “I Believe” statements in poetry, prose, and drawings. Several of the students introduced their gutsy, powerful Credo statements as part of the interactive assembly, presented in partnership with the Berkeley Unified School District and the Berkeley Symphony.

Special guest Joseph Young, music director of the Berkeley Symphony and a rising star in the orchestral world, joined Lara for a chat about another inspiring work: Duke Ellington’s New World A-Comin’, which Lara performed a few days later with the Symphony. Violinist Alyssa Tong, a student at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, was also featured at the assembly in a series of duets with Lara. The kids were enthralled, several coming up to Lara afterward and telling her how much her playing—and the “I Believe” project itself—inspired them.

The Berkeley “I Believe” assembly followed a similar event at the Watts Learning Center Charter Middle School, presented earlier this year by our sister station in Los Angeles, Classical California KUSC. The video below will give you a sense of the pure joy and pride Lara’s “I Believe” initiative inspires.

We’re looking forward to future opportunities to bring live music and inspiring content into Bay area public schools. We hope such efforts will broaden the appeal of the art form, enabling kids to understand on a visceral level the diverse influences that enliven the tradition. It’s all about spreading the joy of music and helping build the classical audiences of the future.


Written by:
The Classical Team
The Classical Team
Published on 04.18.2023