S•W•A•N (Scaling Walls, One Note at a Time) was founded in 2011 by Diana Vuolo with a pilot program beginning in September of 2012. They have been running the small program since then and this year’s goal is to raise funds to serve up to 150 students in Lancaster county as well as 150 students in Austin, Texas.
SWAN provides free music lessons to children who have a parent with a history of incarceration. Sadly in the U.S., 1 in 28 children has a parent currently in prison; these children are 70% more likely to end up in prison themselves. SWAN’s founder Diana Vuolo is a musician and can personally attest to the positive impact music lessons can have on a child’s life. Studies also show that children involved in music have the lowest lifetime substance abuse, have higher grades, and have better school attendance. There is also significant documentation on how music helps to develop various areas of the brain to improve language, critical thinking, coordination, and creativity. All of these will help a child succeed.
The SWAN students don’t just receive music lessons; they also form a natural bond with their teacher who paves the way for mentoring. Students are placed in ensembles so they can have a positive group identity and learn team work. All SWAN students at some point will give back to the community by performing at retirement communities, shelters, and nursing homes, learning the lesson to give back and to serve others. These performance opportunities also help to develop beneficial character traits such as confidence, grit, and determination.
At the banquet, we have the privilege of hearing from a young girl, Madison Strempek, who wrote a book about her struggles after her father went to prison. She is not a SWAN student, but is a violinist who will share how music has helped her cope with her father being in prison. Her book is currently a top seller on Amazon. Furthermore, a SWAN student will share her story, too. And to top it all off, you’ll get to hear the students perform!
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