Juvenile Center teens learn new, bigger life possibilities through music

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Four Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center residents received the gift of musical enlightenment.

Four teenage boys who participate in music therapy sessions at the Juvenile Center enhanced their musical appreciation and competency by watching the group Black Violin in concert at Oklahoma City Community College (OCCC) on Thursday, according to an Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs news release.

“This trip gives the boys a chance to see first-hand, people who are working to break down stereotypes using music,” said Joy Yocum, a licensed music therapist on Juvenile Center’s staff and an adjunct Oklahoma Youth Academy Charter School teacher. “I hope it will help them understand that the old music (classical) and the contemporary music that they listen to can serve the same purpose if used in similar ways, that the two styles can work together. Perhaps this will carry over into helping to bridge the generation gap as well.”

Black Violin features two classically trained string players, Wil Baptiste, who plays the viola, and Kev Marcus, who plays the violin. Their music is a unique blend of classical and hip-hop designed to overcome stereotypes while encouraging people of all ages, races and economic backgrounds to come together and break down cultural barriers, according to the news release.

Thomas Johnson, 17, was one of the four teens who attended Black Violin’s sound check and watched them perform in concert.

“It was a good experience and motivation for me to do something bigger in my life than what I’ve been doing,” Johnson said.

Lemuel Bardeguez, vice president for community development at OCCC, said the college was glad to provide the teens the musical experience.

“Without this partnership, these kids may not have had the opportunity to have this experience,” Bardeguez said. “Art has the power to change lives and inspire people. These kids are in the type of situation that they have a need or a hunger for role models. Black Violin is so great at inspiring musicians. It’s all around a great opportunity for us to serve the community and for these students to have an opportunity to meet some of their favorite idols.”

Music has become an integral part of the teens’ development at the Juvenile Center, located in Tecumseh. They each select an instrument and learn how to play it as part of both their musical therapy treatment program and their studies at Oklahoma Youth Academy Charter School, which is operated by the Office of Juvenile Affairs.

Yocum hopes he can further expand the teens’ musical education and guide them in the direction of musical theory.

“I hope that they will begin to understand that learning the fundamentals in addition to the songs and improvisation that they already play, can be beneficial. Specifically, when studying and playing music, the whole brain is stimulated rather than certain parts as in other disciplines. Chemicals are released during this process, such as dopamine, which improve mood. Neuroplasticity, from the repeated actions of playing an instrument or singing, helps the brain re-route and build new pathways,” Yocum said. “Music is a great outlet and coping mechanism for youth who are working to overcome past traumatic experiences.”

The Black Violin performance was supported in part by the Oklahoma Arts Council.

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