Kansas City resident Darryl Chamberlain with the youth orchestra he’s forming in the city were featured Friday morning on NBC’s “Today” show.
“Today’s” Sheinelle Jones in her Feel Good Friday segment referred to Chamberlain’s story as “a symphony of selflessness.”
The Kansas City Star first found Chamberlain earlier this summer in the basement of St. James United Methodist Church at 5540 Wayne Ave. in Kansas City. He was instructing a small group of urban youth in the musical lessons of life.
Chamberlain, 59, got the idea to start the A-Flat Youth Orchestra more than a decade ago after attending an American Royal Parade in downtown Kansas City and noticing that most of the bands marching in it were from suburban districts.
He found out that budget cuts and enrollment declines had forced city district schools to eliminate music programs, and he was determined to bring music to Kansas City students and hopes to change lives.
“The research tells us music students have the lowest incidence of drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, in-school suspension, behavior problems, and you see the pluses in the form of math ability, spacial reasoning, abstract reasoning,” Chamberlain said.
“Music is powerful. Music builds character.”
So Chamberlain, against all the advice he’d gotten from others who said that one man without disposable cash can’t build an orchestra, set out to do just that.
“The A-Flat Orchestra doesn’t have a funding arm behind it,” Chamberlain said, “just wit and ingenuity. And with a little ingenuity you can do anything.”
He began searching pawn stores, Craigslist and elsewhere for used instruments he could clean up. He bought them one at a time, with money he earned playing piano at churches around town.
He accumulated more than 70 instruments. And since The Star article, he has received instrument donations from all across the country.
Now Chamberlain, who can be reached at the church or at email@example.com, says, “What I need are more students” to add to the ones he already has.
Chamberlain, who studied music theory at Grayson College and is certified to teach high school history in Missouri, knows that instruments without musicians don’t make an orchestra. His dream has him conducting a 70-piece symphony of students.
He welcomes students who already play and students who have never picked up an instrument.
This is not Chamberlain’s first effort to reach students through music. In 2005 he had organized an ensemble of school-age musicians in Texas before returning to his native Kansas City.
“I’m doing more than teaching music,” Chamberlain told The Star. “I draw parallels to life situations and help them to understand how music connects to everyday life.”