When SDYS’ Community Opus Project visited Rice Elementary School and offered free, after-school music instruction, Shannon Yandall knew it was too good an opportunity to pass up for her three daughters, Aleena, Samara, and Charity.
“Music changed my life as a child and I always wanted my daughters to learn to play music as well,” Shannon says.
It proved to be the perfect introduction to music education and playing instruments. Aleena, the youngest, began on the violin but soon started trumpet as well.
“I always wanted to play trumpet, but I had to wait for my big teeth to come in,” Aleena recalls. She says she’s glad that Opus gave her the opportunity to pursue two instruments, but now at 13 years old, Aleena primarily plays trumpet in her intermediate level Conservatory ensembles, Concert Winds and Concert Orchestra.
Samara, 14, remembers being entranced at first sight by the double bass. After six years, she now plays in the most advanced ensemble at SDYS, Symphony Orchestra. Samara is also the second Opus student to progress through both the Community program and the Conservatory program to play in Symphony Orchestra, after Bruno Bello.
“SDYS is important to me now because it gives me the opportunity to learn advanced repertoire in a large orchestra setting,” Samara says.
Charity, 17, is the oldest of her sisters and plays three instruments—violin, viola, and cello in her Opus Chamber groups and in her intermediate level Conservatory ensembles, Concert Orchestra and Sinfonia.
She’s most proud of attending the LA Philharmonic’s National Take A Stand Festival, an annual event that invites 140 students from El Sistema-inspired programs nationwide—like SDYS’ Community Opus Project. Charity has attended Take A Stand three times, but it’s the first one that holds a special place in her memory. “When I got back, I felt like anything was possible,” she says.
Though they started the program later than other students, the Yandalls have progressed very quickly. They actively seek new opportunities to practice and perform in groups and with each other. They also receive Sponsored Lessons with SDYS, a program which helps propel their musical development and encourages advancement to more challenging ensembles.
Even at home, the sisters share a passion that unites them. It certainly helps having music all in the family—the three of them practice together at home and receive strong support from their mom, too.
“Learning to play instruments has ignited a passion for learning in my children,” Shannon says. “It has helped their confidence and become part of their identity.”
It’s easy to see how music is helping to shape their lives. “My life would be boring without music,” Aleena says. “I wouldn’t be me without music.” Her sister Charity also aspires to be a music teacher someday.
Though music has always been a part of the Yandall household, it is now more engrained than ever, and it’s something the family can share and enjoy together for years to come.