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CLEVELAND --The Rainey Institute, located in the Hough neighborhood of Cleveland, is famous for changing lives thru the arts.

So when they heard of the huge success a young orchestra program was having in South America, they wanted that same opportunity for Cleveland kids.

Russ Mitchell discovers how local grade school students are seeing the possible through classical music. He recently talked to Vanessa Johnson, a fourth grader from Village Prep, who has been playing the cello for two years.

"What is the best part about coming here?" asked Mitchell.

"That all my friends come here and I get to play with them" said Johnson.

El Sistema, or "the system" in English, was founded in Venezuela. The program provides students the opportunity to learn music and play in an orchestra. Three years ago, the Rainey Institute was determined to bring it to Cleveland, but needed funding.

"One of our first stops was at the Cleveland Foundation," said Lee Lazar, Executive Director of the Rainey Institute.

"We're always looking for great ideas for youth. In particular, a proposal that can get at multiple things, teamwork, self discipline, setting long-term goals. To take pages of prose and see children playing musical instruments really about is seeing the possible," said Robert Eckardt, Executive Vice President of the Cleveland Foundation.

"We see our kids doing very well in school. We see our kids learning how to focus. What they see is by hard work, by determination, by practice that they can produce beautiful music," said Lazar.

And the students are dedicated, coming after school for 90 minutes of practice,five days a week.

"Where do you get the confidence to play so well and learn this instrument?" asked Mitchell.

"The confidence, I get it from whenever I go to Severance Hall and watch the Cleveland Orchestra play. I can see how they do it so I can do it too," said Johnson.

Almost all of the kids in the program have never touched an instrument before.

"We first teach kids how a string instrument is made and how a string instrument needs to be treated. The kids truly do respect the instruments. They also respect themselves a great deal," said Lazar.

"Let's say you wanted to teach me the cello. What's the first thing you would tell me to do?" asked Mitchell.

"You always unpack on the floor" said Johnson.

"That's the most important thing?" said Mitchell.

"Yup," replied Johnson.

The program started for 30 kids playing violins and has grown to 60 kids and a full orchestra. They have performed six times at Severance Hall.

El Sistema Website: http://www.raineyinstitute.org/project/el-sistema/

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