Musical Bridges gives back by embracing talented students from the community

This fall the high school community outreach program will see a second participant enroll at the Conservatory of Music and Dance


May 26, 2016

musicians performing onstage


For a second time next fall, Musical Bridges, a donor-supported community outreach program of UMKC’s Conservatory of Music and Dance, will send a participant to study at the Conservatory.

Victor Medina, a bassoonist who recently graduated from Kansas City’s Lincoln College Preparatory Academy, will enter the Conservatory as a music education major in August. Courtney Hayes, who enrolled last fall after graduating from Lincoln, was the first Musical Bridges student to study at the Conservatory.

Mara Gibson, Ph.D., director of Community Music and Dance Academy and founder of the Musical Bridges program, said both students are a great illustration of how the program gives back by embracing students in the community.

“There are many talented students here in Kansas City and one aim through Musical Bridges is to help those students to connect with music as a viable career,” Gibson said. “By modeling excellent instruction and student success, the Conservatory will magnify the prominence of urban music education and arts advocacy in our region.”

Musical Bridges, which was founded in 2007, provides exceptional young musicians from underrepresented populations with the intensive, one-on-one instruction and performance experience necessary to prepare for auditions at selective university programs. This past year, 60 students from the community participated in wind, string, percussion or voice lessons through Musical Bridges. Next year, 65 students are expected to participate.

The program’s $126,500 budget is funded almost entirely through private gifts and grants.

When Medina entered the Musical Bridges program about two years ago, he began having weekly, one-hour lessons with Conservatory graduate Keel Williams, who earned his master’s and doctorate degrees at UMKC. Williams helped Medina prepare for competitions and propelled him toward a higher level of musical education. Last fall, Medina was a Rising Symphony Star with the Kansas City Symphony.

Medina credits the Musical Bridges program with helping him recognize his love of music.

“Before Musical Bridges, school was boring. I wasn’t really accomplishing many things,” said Medina, who lives with his family in midtown Kansas City. “Because of Musical Bridges, music became the thing I love.”

Through the program, Medina met William’s former professor, Marita Abner, professor of bassoon. Abner, who also plays in the Kansas City Symphony, performed with Medina in October through the Rising Star program.

Williams said he is thrilled that Medina will now study with Abner at the Conservatory.

“Victor is the kind of student you always want to have,” Williams said.