CINCINNATI -- Before she started taking classes at the School for Creative and Performing Arts in Over the Rhine, Winter Deardorff knew what it felt like to be bullied.
“People made fun of my name,” said the 12-year-old seventh-grader, a musical theater major from Mt. Washington. “They made fun of my height. Just little things that kind of got on your nerves.”
But the impact of those teasing words was far from small. “It made me lose my self-confidence,” she said.
Now the soft-spoken, petite blond makes a point of befriending students who feel like outsiders. She also praises the atmosphere of acceptance at SCPA, where she enrolled, in part, to escape bullies.
While students at most schools work hard to blend in, students at SCPA strive to stand out. That can make them easy targets for bullies, said Time for Three violinist Zachary DePue. His group performed at the school this week in conjunction with Bully Prevention Month.
“Go figure that playing the violin in the 7th grade wasn’t the coolest thing to do,” DePue said. He and his two bandmates have performed outreach concerts in schools for more than 10 years, but in the last two, they’ve added bully prevention messages to their musical programs.
A music video they released last year, “Stronger,” mashes the song popularized by Kanye West and Daft Punk with classical music. The trio’s ability to remain relevant to young audiences showed at SCPA, where young Chamber Orchestra musicians hung on their every word and audience members snapped fingers along to the trio’s Katy Perry’s Fireworks/Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite compilation.
“I loved that they were getting into it,” said Time for Three’s other violinist, Nicolas Kendall.
In addition to his work as a soloist and member of the “world’s first classically trained garage band,” as Time for Three bills itself, Kendall also knows the sting of bullying. In middle school, he had the wind knocked out of him by a carefully aimed ball that separated him from his violin case and his schoolbooks.
“Those sort of things are actually significant,” he said.
'Come Out Better On The Other Side'
The experts at the National Bullying Prevention Center agree.
They point to research showing that students who are bullied not only lose self-esteem and feelings of self-worth, their grades can suffer, too. The physical and emotional toll reaches beyond the bullied to the bystanders. Find more bullying facts here: http://www.pacer.org/bullying/about/media-kit/facts.asp.
“I don’t think there’s one kid who doesn’t feel like they haven’t been laughed out,” DePue said.
Through their music and their teaching, DePue, Kendall and Time for Three double bassist Ranaan Meyer reinforce the value of individual commitment and perseverance. It’s a message that resonates with students like Deardorff, who said the “Stronger” video inspired her a lot.
“If you stick to your dreams and stick to what you love, you can come out all the better on the other side,” DePue said.
Time for Three’s session at SCPA, part of the Mayerson Master Artist Series, preceded their appearance at the opening of the 40th season of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra Wednesday night, which was also part of the The Constella Festival of Music and Fine Arts.
“They are rock stars in their world,” said CCO Executive Director Thom Mariner. “They are a little bit bigger than life.”
But as they took the SCPA stage in shorts, sandals and jeans, the trio joked and cajoled their audience toward understanding the bridge between classical and modern music, one song at a time.
“These guys have such a positive influence,” Mariner said. “They help kids understand that there is more than one way of looking at things. . . .They are trying to encourage people to feel proud in who they are, to stand tall.”
Find out more about Bully Prevention Month in Cincinnati, including a rally Oct. 12 at the Bond Hill Recreation Center.
Check out the next Constella Festival of Music and Fine Arts performances.
Learn more about the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra.
Read about the Mayerson Master Artists Program at SCPA.
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Bob is WCPO's education reporter, highlighting what's working and what needs fixing from preschools to doctoral programs. A Cincinnati native, Bob was previously a regular contributor to the New York Times and was a staff reporter on many beats through 10 years at the Cincinnati Post and Kentucky Post newspapers.