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Forte: YAMA 
brings out 

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YAKIMA, Wash. -- It’s 6 p.m. on a Thursday and we are sitting outside A.C. Davis High School on concrete that is still radiating heat from one of the first warm days of spring. We have just finished our daily two-hour rehearsal and are squeezing in this Student Council meeting before the students go home to do homework and chores, practice and help take care of family.

As busy as she is herself, one student says she feels sorry that I have to eat my dinner here, that I have to go straight to a symphony rehearsal after we meet. Her empathy touches me, and I can’t think of better company for my dinnertime.

I listen while these students share their ideas on fundraising and creating a more rigorous application and training process for our Assistant Teacher Program next year. One student asks for time the following week to talk to the orchestra about the tardiness that has been increasing with the temperature outside. This is the kind of ownership most young people don’t get to experience.

On stage later that evening, I contemplate my privilege. I grew up exposed to and part of this classical music culture. Decades of rehearsals have taught me a very precise etiquette, from how to write playing instructions into my music and turn the page correctly, to the art of fitting the thread of my notes and rhythms into the fabric of the ensemble.

I have learned through immersion because I have had access to this culture, and this access has deeply shaped how I see the world. Most strikingly, I recognize that this immersion has never so much been a question of can I, but do I choose to — a choice that so many young people don’t have.

Yakima Music en Acción, or YAMA, exists to provide access to this choice.

And from this point, the creative work begins, guided by two big questions: “How do we best allow the voices and vision of our students and their families to shape the growth of our program?” And, “How do we provide this immersive experience while keeping at the forefront the ownership, intelligence and culture of the community?”

• Jennifer Moultine is a Yakima Symphony Orchestra cellist and YSO teaching artist and site director for Yakima Music en Acción Philharmonia, YAMA’s leadership program at A.C. Davis High School.

What is YAMA?

Yakima Music en Acción empowers, inspires, unifies and instills pride throughout the neighborhoods it serves by energizing children and strengthening families through music. The Yakima Symphony Orchestra and Yakima School District are principal collaborators in YAMA. For additional information, visit

Season finale

The Yakima Music en Acción season finale performance will be from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday at The Seasons Performance Hall, 101 N. Naches Ave. in Yakima. It’s free.

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