Inside the walls of the top floor of North United Methodist Church, music rings through the rooms. The chords of the piano mingle with the notes of the flute and echo in the halls. In one room, piano teacher Jaette Carpenter sits on the bench with a young girl. The girl shyly looks up at Carpenter and, with a smile, lifts her tiny fingers to play.
“Good job, Fiona,” says Carpenter after she finishes. “Now I’m going to have you start a new piece.” Fiona’s face lights up with a smile so big, it could be seen from the other side of town.
“Will it be hard? Well, it may not be as easy as Frosty the Snowman,” Carpenter laughs. “But you’re a smart girl; you can do it.”
Carpenter is just one of the teachers from Hopewell Music Cooperative North, an organization that has made a tremendous impact on the community of North Minneapolis.
Founders Carpenter and Ellie Fregni, both of which previously taught at another music school, were frustrated at the amount of students being turned away because they couldn’t pay the price. Determined to provide quality music education to children and adults regardless of their income, they created their own nonprofit organization. And with this decision, Hopewell was born.
The mission of Hopewell is to “empower community and enrich lives through accessible high quality music education.” Hopewell provides this education through Private Lessons, Ensembles, and Group Classes (such as early childhood education).
Max Barquero-Salazar, father of Fiona Barquero-Raivo, sees the joy that music brings to Fiona. “Fiona is a very creative child,” he said, glowing with pride. “She likes artistic expressions,” Salazar said, “and music is one of them.”
Fiona is excited and passionate about the music she plays, and Barquero knows that it’s because “[she really enjoys] the teachers.”
Fiona especially connects with Carpenter, who teaches piano to both Fiona and her younger sister, Lucia. “They trust her,” he said, smiling. “She talks with them, teaches them, plays with them, and laughs with them.”
Carpenter’s relationship with her students has stemmed from the passion she has for her work and for the kids. “Most of the time I’m in awe with what the kids are doing, it’s just splendid,” she said. “They’re just amazing kids.”
The teachers at Hopewell bring passion to their jobs. “There just hasn’t been a lot of formal training in music offered in the North Minneapolis area for many years,” said Carpenter. “We really wanted to see what these kids could do.”
To lead students into the realization of their full potential, the staff at Hopewell uses a highly personalized method, often encouraging students to try other instruments that would help them succeed in their current studies. Carpenter, for example, recommends that voice students also learn guitar so they can sing with their own accompaniment.
“The cool thing is, you’re really allowed to create,” said Carpenter. “It’s not as concrete of an atmosphere as a public school would be. It’s really a more relaxed atmosphere, and the students can try different instruments if they’d like to.”
“There’s no pressure to perform, to be perfect,” said Salazar, who watched Fiona play violin with the Crescendo Orchestra in the November 10th recital. “They’re always excited when they do recitals. It’s really about enjoying the music, enjoying the experience.”
Teachers like Carpenter and Fregni pour massive amounts of vigor and love into the students they work with and make sure these students feel loved and accepted.
“I think that’s the difference between Hopewell and many other music schools,” said Salazar. “The reason that they’re doing this is not because of money or profit.” The teachers do what they do “because they really love music”, and they want “other kids that don’t have the opportunity to take affordable classes” to be able to.
Students at Hopewell also perform at many events as an organization and within the community. Carpenter believes that this will make performances seem less daunting for students, as they have more experience. Her conviction for this has roots in her memories of performing when she was young.
“We just had one recital a year,” she said, recounting her previous experiences. “I would prepare and prepare and prepare for that, and I would just about faint. I’d get sick to my stomach because I was a shy person and I wasn’t used to performing.”
By familiarizing students with the challenges and victories that come from performing, Carpenter has seen anxiety levels diminish in students. “The more we can expose kids to people and performance venues…the more we can do that, the more comfortable they are with performing their instruments, refining their craft,” she said. “And it seems to be working.”
Many of the performances that Hopewell puts on are community-based. “It’s really rewarding for the community,” said Carpenter.
During her time at Hopewell, Fiona has played for General Mills, the Camden Care Center, and the Children’s Hospital.
One of the things that has struck Salazar the most by being involved with Hopewell is “the fact that they have to see different aspects of the community,” he said. “They are becoming comfortable at playing and doing things in front of the people.”
The teachers at Hopewell believe that their students have the potential to do great things, and they commit to helping students realize that potential. In doing so, they also support the students in many ways and develop special connections. “There’s more than the music,” said Salazar. “[The students] are connected to the program. It’s a part of them.”
Hopewell provides lessons for flute, clarinet, saxophone, oboe, guitar, bass guitar, trombone, trumpet, violin, viola, cello, upright bass, baritone, and more. Visit hopewellmusic.com to learn more about Hopewell. Enrollment for the Winter Session of lessons or early childhood (Jan. 3 to Mar. 11) is now open until the end of December. To register, visit www.hopewellmusic.com/new-students and fill out a registration form. Families of students are required to attend an orientation session (slots are open from Dec. 12 to Dec. 30) before they can participate in lessons or rehearsals. To learn more about the community orchestra, choir, or jazz ensemble; email email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com, respectively. Hopewell is located on 4350 Fremont. The staff of Hopewell can be reached at 612-466-0696 or firstname.lastname@example.org.