Latch-key kids

Kate Hampson / Washburn Review

Since the earthquake that hit Haiti in January, people have been in the giving mood. But a student and a professor at Washburn have been giving their time and talent to underprivileged youth in Topeka.

The Latch-Keyboard Project allows children, ages 1 through 12, who cannot afford private keyboard music study a chance to experience music and receive free lessons. Shiao-Li Ding, a music professor at Washburn, is on the advisory committee for the project and said most of the children involved would not have an opportunity for music lessons if it wasn’t for Latch-Keyboard.

“The goal of the project is to provide music programs for disadvantaged children in Topeka, at no cost to their families,” said Ding. “The economic and social status of most families indicates that these children would not otherwise have the opportunity for private or small group music instruction.”

Ding has been involved with the project since it was started in 1997. Latch-Keyboard was initiated by Topeka’s NorthEast Kansas Music Teachers Association and only included music lessons for 6-to-12-year-olds. However, the last two years they have expanded the program.

“For the past two years, the project has administered year-round music and movement classes for pre-school students starting at age 3. It provides creative activities that give children the pleasure of participating in music and that enhance learning abilities in young children,” said Ding.

The project is run by donations that the Latch-Keyboard Project Advisory Committee raises. Most of the work that the committee does is to fundraise and write grants. All of the members are from the Topeka community and understand the children that they are fundraising for.

In 2009, 65 children were involved in the music program. Throughout the years, there have been one or two Washburn students each year that serve as instructors or assistant instructors. One student who is currently involved in the project is Jordan Ward, a music student at Washburn.

The classes take place at Salvation Army in Topeka and the classes typically have more than one student at a time. It is not just keyboard lessons, but music classes that allow the children to dance and exert their energy while learning what music is all about. All of the children who participate in the project are enrolled in the Salvation Army’s child care program.

With music programs fading in some schools, it is important for children to be able to learn music at a young age. The Latch-Keyboard Project is promoting music while giving underprivileged children the ability to experience something they might never have the chance to otherwise.