Youth Orchestra Brings Outdoor Performances to Bed-Stuy Plaza

By Paul DeBenedetto on July 16, 2014 4:27pm 

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 The Noel Pointer Foundation will perform through July at Bed-Stuy's Marcy Plaza Farmers Market.
The Noel Pointer Foundation in Bed-Stuy's Marcy Plaza
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BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — These kids are bringing the sweet sounds of summer to Bed-Stuy.

A local youth orchestra is taking up residence in a Bed-Stuy pedestrian plaza this summer, mixing classic pieces with modern tunes for three weeks in July.

Musicians from the Noel Pointer Foundation's youth orchestra set up stands and sheet music at Marcy Plaza on Wednesday for the first of three performances at the spot's weekly farmers market.

Part of the foundation's Summer Strings Program, children in groups aged 7 through 9 and 10 through 17 will break out their violins, violas and cellos, alongside young guitarists to perform not only classical compostions but also hits like "Stand By Me" and "Let it Go" from the hit Disney movie "Frozen."

"You would think they'd find it corny," said founder Chinita Pointer as band members went through a rendition of Katy Perry's "Firework."

"But if you incorporate different genres of music into string playing, they don't mind it."

Pointer, who started the organization as a way to teach music in city public schools. She named it the Noel Pointer Foundation after her husband, a Grammy-nominated jazz violinist who died in 1994.

Noel Pointer was a public school student and became a successful studio musician at a young age, his wife said.

Naming the foundation after him was a way to help others succeed in music within the public school system in the same way, she said.

"We thought the best way to keep his legacy alive was through providing string music instruction to kids in inner city schools," Pointer said.

Starting with P.S. 44 in 1998, Pointer eventually signed a contract with the Department of Education in 2000 and currently works with 28 schools, mostly in Brooklyn.

The program lasts the entire school year, working two hours a day, two days a week with every student involved. By the end of the year, each of the students will have learned how to read music and perform.

On Wednesday, Pointer rattled off success stories in that roughly 16-year period, including a current student, 8-year-old Pilar Hill, who she said already has an opportunity to go to both Julliard's and Manhattan School of Music's prep programs.

"Every year, I'm not sure whether or not we'll be able to go back into a public school," Pointer said.

But the program, which works out of Restoration Plaza across the street from the weekly outdoor concerts, is still going strong, and on Wednesday each of the kids entusiastically played along.

One of those students was Pointer's grandson, Jordan, who comes up every summer from Virginia to perform with his grandmother's orchestra.

The 14-year-old has been playing violin for five years and has formed a bond with his fellow young musicians.

"It's just a fun group to play with," Jordan said.

"There's so many moments when we play, and just start laughing for no reason. And it just feels really good."

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