They are 4th graders, reading and playing the masters, Mozart and Vivaldi, but amid the classical notes, there’s been another sound, on occasion says instructor Keith Cook.
"One time there was a shooting, somebody was shooting in a car behind them. In rapid succession, and then everybody would duck or come in here,” Cook said.
For this Louisville Orchestra veteran, just like the playlist he and his students follow, the music must not stop. There's too much riding on it. Cook said, "This is where we need to be."
The extraordinary purpose of the Blue House, has been playing out for 20 years on 28th street in the Parkland neighborhood.
Vean Thompson, a local mom, told us she and her children have lived in some of the city's roughest housing complexes, “Me and music, that's how they escaped.”
Nine of Vean’s 12 children went through the Blue House she says, “They would be in the house, or here, or at school. They were not in the streets. I would not let them be in the streets.”
Cook says that’s the mission behind the music, “If you create an environment in a certain place you can change that environment.”
The name of Cook's program is "The West Louisville Talent Education Center.” No one calls it that. Just the Blue House. As Cook points out, “It is very easy. To spot. On the block.”
Twenty years ago the 116 year old home was dirty lime green. Cook picked the new color.
But the Blue House now needs help. It's got plumbing issues, leaks here and there, major cracks in the walls.
They've been slowly raising funds for a new roof and to knock out walls to keep from moving. The Blue House is groaning at the seams.
At age 65, he is the maestro overseeing an orchestra aged six-years-old to 17. Forty students, mostly from the West End and Shively, learning their first notes, to graduates like Kieran Walker, already shining on the big stage at U of L’s School of Music.
Walker is following Cook's footsteps. She learned violin from him, is now teaching and performing, and credits her growth to this, “We didn't just play classical music. Mr. Cook would arrange pieces for us. We did a lot of Jackson Five and pop music.”
Fourth grader Trenton Claypool started here when he was six and said, “I would like to inspire everyone to play violin and be yourself.”
Darryl Johnson says this could be a ticket to greater things. “I enjoy performing and playing because it’s going to help me in life.”
Justin Shell is absorbing every minute of Cook, “He is very smart. He knows what's he's doing, and sometimes he makes us laugh.”
The Blue House needs $50,000 dollars in donations to pay for the roof, fix plumbing issues, and knock out walls to expand. Despite their hard efforts, they’ve raised $11,000. Cook uses donations to also buy violins and pay for lessons for those students who can’t afford it.
You can send checks to: The Blue House, 1316 South 28th Street, Louisville KY 40211. Make checks payable to: WESTTEC (the official name of Cook’s program.)
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