Pay It Forward: Special program uses music education to empower D.C. students

Students in The Musicianship perform. (Photo: NewsChannel 8)

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - Jeffery Tribble Jr. and Dianne Grainger were both members of the Howard University Marching Band. After they graduated they wanted to use music education as a gateway to help young people be successful. So, the two sought guidance and The MusicianShip launched in 2009.

Grainger was tragically killed in a car accident and never got to see the program come to life, but she’s honored each year during the final show, “Dianne’s Recital.”

This year, “Dianne’s Recital” entertained a full house in the auditorium at Wilson High School.

“I feel the beat, hey, get out of your seat,” the band and dancers chanted, to the rhythm provided by the drumline.

Family and friends happily obliged as the band broke out into a compilation of hits like Michael Jackson’s “Rock with You,” as well as a little hometown flavor with some go-go beats.

When the final number ended, The MusicianShip received a standing ovation.

“I'm from the south side of Chicago, so a lot of what these students deal with day to day, I encountered, and my friends encountered, growing up,” Executive Director Jeffery Tribble Jr., a full-time government contractor, said.{ } “To be able to provide this opportunity for kids who are similarly situated I think is what drives me to do it.”

The MusicianShip targets student musicians from underprivileged areas in the city, like Wards 7 and 8. Many of the participants are placed in the program through the District’s Summer Youth and Employment program.

“I've learned how to be proud of who I am and my music and to be willing to accept change,” 17 year-old Yasmeen Webb said. "The MusicianShip is about growing who you are as a person, and working with other people.”

Webb will be a senior at Bell Multicultural in the fall.

The discipline and focus it takes to successfully perform in a band are the same tools that these students will need to be successful in other aspects of life, Tribble Jr. says.

Fourteen-year-old Elijah Singeltary will be a freshman at Ballou High School when the school year begins.

“It's taught me more patience - how to control my energy until that one moment when we really need it,” he said. “It teaches you a life lesson because you get to meet different people and you learn how to cooperate to make one good quality sound, rather than different sounds.”

The young musicians don’t just use making music to learn lessons; they also participate in college readiness and career panels.

The summer program lasts six weeks. In the fall, The MusicianShip will partner with select area schools to offer after-school programming.

Their work will continue not only through the collective efforts of the program, but through those that have already passed through.

“I just want to make a difference,” 17-year-old band member Erica Moore said.

Her focus prior to participating in The MusicianShip was solely graduating high school and getting to college.

“It showed me that thinking of other people is better than thinking of myself," she added. "Inspiring a bunch of little kids and doing what I love to do, it changed my whole entire life, really.”