Kids’ Orchestra and Kids’ Choir exemplify how LSU advances arts and culture.Give Now
Meet Jason Bowers, PhD, an LSU alumnus, instructor, and director of Kids’ Choir. Along with Alicia Monroe, DMA, an LSU alumna and Kids’ Orchestra’s string orchestra ensemble director, Bowers combines a love of music with a drive for building community.
For Jason Bowers, music was always something to be shared. A choir member “nearly from birth,” Bowers knew music would form the foundation of his career and his life. After earning both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from LSU, Bowers spent nine years teaching high school choir. While mentoring LSU student teachers in his choral program, he discovered another passion: teaching future teachers.
“Music programs have a very special place in students’ lives,” said Bowers. “Studying music lends itself to exploring larger issues tied to improving the world around us. I want to help prepare educators to do this important work.”
Bowers eventually returned to his alma mater to pursue a doctoral degree. Now, he instructs the next generation of LSU music educators. He’s also the director of Kids’ Choir, a nonprofit, after-school music program for K-6 students in Baton Rouge that places equal emphasis on music education and social development. The program fills a gap for elementary students whose schools may not offer robust music programs while fostering a valuable partnership between LSU teachers-in-training and the Greater Baton Rouge community.
“Music is this great equalizing force—it provides opportunities for people to form emotional connections,” Bowers said. “In Kids’ Orchestra and Kids’ Choir, students as young as five develop a sense of confidence and identity by collaborating with people from all different backgrounds. These experiences strengthen their social abilities and problem-solving skills. In turn, this impacts how they interact with their classmates in school, their families at home, the people in their communities. It’s a ripple effect. Music can positively shape their entire future.”
Alicia Monroe started teaching with Kids’ Orchestra in 2013 while pursuing her master’s at LSU. At that time, Kids’ Orchestra had already grown from its original 75 students to 500; the number is well over 800 today. Of the 70 teaching artists currently on staff, Monroe says 40-50 are affiliated with LSU.
“The teaching artists get to know their students and their families,” Monroe said. “They’re with the students performing in the community, so they see and experience Baton Rouge in an entirely new way.” Monroe also shared that it would be “amazing” to see other after-school programs imitate the social and community elements of Kids’ Orchestra, adding, “It’s a cycle of giving. The kids share their talents and the community shows up to support them.”