The Symphony Women’s Association (TSWA) provides free music education to children from underserved families in Tucson and Pima County. Our music education is taught by qualified passionate professionals. Sheet music and supplies are provided to the children, and instruments are available to loan for participants when needed.
TSWA was originally formed in 1952 to raise funds for the Tucson Symphony Orchestra (TSO). In the late 1970’s, TSWA purchased three buildings at the corner of S. Stone Avenue and East 15th street. After repair and remodeling these buildings were transformed into an antique shop (The Treasure shop), the Encore Boutique (a high-end resale shop), the Second Fiddle (a thrift store), and an office building for TSO.
In the early 1980’s one of TSWA’s members (and then University of Arizona music professor) the late Dr. Edna Church, observed the decline of music education in Tucson’s public school system. School administrators affirmed Dr. Church’s suspicion that children attending low-income-area schools were not receiving instrumental music instruction. TSWA’s team of volunteers led by Dr. Church embarked on the creation of a free piano program targeting children of limited means. The piano program started modestly enough with Dr. Church as the teacher and using paper keyboards in the backroom of the Treasure Shop. Edna recruited some of her grad students to help TSWA out, two pianos were donated, and the program starting growing. In order to accommodate more students, a piano lab was started with 8 Yamaha Clavinovas and a teacher’s console which enabled the teacher to monitor all students, make them play together, etc. At this time it was decided that the piano lab should be moved to the soon to be vacant office building as TSO had purchased their new offices at another location.
To commemorate our 50th anniversary, we dedicated our corner building as our Music Education Center and started expanding our programs. The first instrument added was folkloric marimba under the direction of TSO’s principal percussionist Homero Ceron. In 2002, in memory of re-known TSO clarinetist John Denman, we also started the Kinder Klari program. Kinder Klari is an Eb clarinet designed by the late TSO clarinetist John Denman for younger players whose fingers are not yet big enough to hold a normal size Bb clarinet correctly. Unlike other beginner clarinets, this is a fully authentic clarinet.
In January 2009 TSWA formally revised its mission to focus solely on the provision of music education for Tucson’s underprivileged children.
WHO WE ARE
TSWA currently the only music education program in Tucson that offers free weekly group and one-on-one music lessons. All necessary materials (and when needed, loaner instruments) are provided to school-age children (pre-K through 12) whose parents can’t afford to give their children these advantages. Our comprehensive lessons teach students not only how to play an instrument, but also proper technique, repertoire, sight-reading, theory, ear training, performance and music appreciation. For qualification considerations, we follow federal guidelines for parental income, and also require the student display an interest in music. Most of our students are referred by their teachers/principals, social agencies, or by word of mouth.
Members of TSWA are comprised of all volunteers who take care of any and all needs inherent in running such a program. We don’t have any paid staff, many of our teachers donate their services, and the rest work at highly reduced rates. TSWA is very fortunate to have music instructors/ musicians/educators of the highest caliber who are well-known not only in Tucson. These selfless and generous people come from TSO, the U of A, Pima, and private studios. These musicians are professionals of their own fields and combine a rare quality of compassion and understanding to the many special circumstances that some of the students are going through.