UWM’s Resilient Midlands program, UofSC School of Music build resilient futures

New partnership develops positive social skills for young minds.

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Video Credit: Andre Goodman, UWM's Youth Program Manager. Watkins-Nance's students enjoy the Fuse Ensemble's accompaniment to Peter and the Wolf during the program's final ceremony.

United Way of the Midlands’ Resilient Midlands program partnered with the University of South Carolina School of Music’s Fuse Ensemble to develop an initiative to enhance kindergarteners’ positive social skills.

Resilient Midlands is a United Way of the Midlands initiative to create a more trauma-informed, resilient community by bringing awareness to the lingering effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

UofSC School of Music proposed the idea of working with Resilient Midlands and the kindergartners at Watkins-Nance Elementary School using music from their Fuse Ensemble. The Fuse Ensemble is a quintet, comprised of five graduate students from UofSC School of Music, who play the flute, oboe, French horn, clarinet and bassoon.

This new program began in mid-January and allowed Resilient Midlands and the Fuse Ensemble to merge students’ interest in music with social-emotional learning. The group held weekly, virtual sessions introducing the musician and their instruments.

“It was so refreshing to see the kids actively engaged with the Ensemble, sharing their thoughts of their favorite instruments and parts of the book that was narrated,” said Andre Goodman, United Way’s Youth Program Manager. “I am glad United Way’s Resilient Midlands program and UofSC School of Music were able to provide such a rewarding experience for the kids.”

Using 10-minute video presentations, the Fuse Ensemble offered guided listening lessons and paired it with basic mindfulness exercises to develop the kids’ active and present listening skills.

“Even over video, as required by COVID-19 protocols, the students were excited and receptive to our message that music is a way to learn about and share emotions,” said Jennifer Parker-Harley, Faculty Advisor for the Fuse Ensemble.

The program continued through April and commenced with an in-person group presentation with the quintet providing an accompaniment for the Peter and the Wolf narrative.

“We also noticed that the students, outside of their excitement for the ensemble to show up on Mondays, exhibited excellent pro-social skills such as identifying feelings and becoming better at using their sensory skills,” said Brad Washington, Site Coordinator with Communities in Schools and Resilient Midlands team member.

This partnership with UofSC School of Music has afforded these students a unique and engaging opportunity to develop social-emotional skills, and United Way is grateful for the school’s commitment to creating a more resilient community.

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