Director of Creative Placemaking, Price Hill Will
Cellist Laura Jekel is founder and former director of MYCincinnati, a free El Sistema-inspired youth orchestra program in Cincinnati, Ohio. Music for Youth in Cincinnati (MYCincinnati) is a free, daily youth orchestra program for children in Cincinnati’s Price Hill neighborhood. The program meets for two hours every weekday and students learn violin, viola, cello, or bass, and play in an orchestra.
MYCincinnati’s mission is to use classical music as a tool for youth development and community engagement by providing urban children with access to free, intense, high-quality musical instruction. Modeled on El Sistema, MYCincinnati uses music to build discipline, self-con dence, focus, and strong work habits, and social skills.
Laura founded MYCincinnati in 2011 as a grassroots effort, originally using instruments on loan and starting with 11 students. As of 2016, MYCincinnati owns all of its own instruments, has 85 children enrolled, employs five teaching artists, and is supported by a many weekly volunteers. Recently, their curriculum expanded to include bucket drumming, choir, and pre-orchestra.
Laura also contributes signicantly to the broader El Sistema movement. In 2014, MYCincinnati hosted a Midwest Seminario, with 130 students attending from seven El Sistema-inspired programs in five cities across three states. Working with Cincinnati Symphony musicians and teaching artists from participating programs, the event consisted of all-day rehearsals and culminated in a concert.
Originally from Boston, Laura has performed and taught throughout Latin America and the United States. After earning a bachelor of music degree in cello performance at Indiana University in Bloomington, she traveled to Ecuador where she was a member of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Guayaquil and cello professor at the music school Fronteras Musicales Abiertas in Cuenca. After returning from Ecuador, Laura completed her masters of music in cello performance at Carnegie Mellon University.
Laura is currently the Director of Creative Placemaking for Price Hill Will, the neighborhood development corporation that hosts MYCincinnati. Along with founding MYCincinnati, she is the co-founder of the Price Hill String Quartet, and a substitute cellist with the Cincinnati Ballet Orchestra, Richmond Symphony, Kentucky Symphony, and Dayton Philharmonic.
Photo: Anna Jekel