Marimba Ensemble (Holy Cross)

Holy Cross Parish
Chicago, Illinois

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The Marimba Ensemble started with 4 young musicians in 1990. The ensemble has expanded to become one of the parish’s most popular programs, inspiring leadership, creativity, responsibility, ambition, and academic success in around 45 youth annually.

This program has long-term effects on the kids involved. The staff at the parish has found that the more time young people spend as committed members of the Marimba Ensemble, the more likely they are to go to pursue higher education. One hundred percent of the young musicians who have stayed in the program for three years or more pursue post-secondary education.

The marimba consists of wooden bars that several players strike with mallets. The instrument is quite large, and as a result the musicians must work as a team, listening to each other to create a variety of songs and rhythms.

The members of the Marimba Ensemble usually begin learning to play in 7th or 8th grade; the majority of the group’s performing members are high school students. College students serve as mentors and teachers to the younger participants, who play in more than 100 annual performances.

The group has performed at Chicago’s City Hall, the Museum of Science and Industry, and Midway Airport, among others. These shows are a motivating factor for the young musicians stay involved in the ensemble and out of trouble. In addition to these performances, each summer the group travels around the nation playing at other parishes and at cultural events. While traveling, they stop at points of interest such as national parks that broaden their horizons and give them experiences outside of the city.

For many of the young musicians, participating in the Marimba Ensemble offers them a support structure, increases their understanding of themselves, improves their self-esteem and self-expression, and showcases how their talent influences other people. Participating in the group also teaches leadership, collaboration, and teamwork, which are valuable life skills.

While arts programs like the Marimba Ensemble make a difference for young people from all backgrounds, they play a special role in creating healing and growth for youth living in communities where violence and poverty are endemic. Artistic expression can help high-risk young people see they have something valuable and positive to contribute to their community. By getting children and teens involved in parish activities, tCI programs do more than just reduce and prevent crime; they create opportunities for the kinds of professional and academic opportunities and mentors that neighborhood kids need.

To learn about this program, the community it serves, and the issues it addresses, visit our Impact Blog and our Issues page.

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