RICHMOND, Va. -- Tolling bells at Grace Baptist Church in Richmond share the air with the sound of angels. Inside Caroline Haines hones her skills under the keen ears and eyes of her teacher, Lynnelle Ediger Kordzia. Lynnelle is changing lives one note at a time.
"She is dedicated. A lot of long hours. Sometimes she doesn’t get the thanks that she deserves," Caroline Haines said.
In 1999, Lynnelle founded the American Youth Harp Ensemble. The non-profit introduces children, no matter their financial standing, to melodic magic.
"We’re not driven by financial gain. We’re driven by doing the right thing making impact," Lynnelle said. "This program is unique in the nation. Probably unique in the world."
Her lessons go well beyond sheet music, serving others is the foundation of the ensemble.
"What it means to be community minded. What it means to be a good person. What it means to have discipline. What it means to work hard," Lynnelle said.
Students play their harps in maternity and cancer wards using the harp as an instrument of healing.
"When you’re given a gift or talent you should share it with the world. And you should give others in the world a chance to experience that," Aponi Brunson, Assistant Artistic Director and 2003 graduate of the American Youth Harp Ensemble, said.
The one of a kind ensemble also travels the world performing in Paris and entertaining in England. Lynnelle considers herself an old school teacher. She doesn’t believe that everyone deserves a trophy.
"You have to work hard and you have to earn it," Lynnelle said. "We’re not going to say something is great when it is not."
She demands excellence and encourages students to raise the bar, and her students respond.
"She cares about her students and she wants them to succeed," Haines said. "I really like a teacher who will push me and teach me discipline."
Lynelle considers the more than 350 member ensemble a family that plucks at her heart strings.
"I feel like I’m the luckiest person," Lynnelle said. "We have the opportunity to watch them grow. It is really like a family. And I am so proud of what they do and what they accomplish."
Caroline Haines, the student perfecting her talent under Lynelle’s direction, recently won a competition and will soon be performing at Carnegie Hall. The iconic venue in New York City is a place Caroline said she never would have reached if it were not for her beloved teacher.
"I was so excited. I probably won’t believe it until I’m on stage playing before the audience playing," Haines said. "Without her I don’t know where I would be right now"
Lynnelle Ediger Kordzia is a music instructor helping students strike the right chord whether they’re playing an instrument or not.
"Everything we’ve done here is from scratch and it is based on doing the right thing and a belief if you do the right thing students will come and lives will be changed," she said.
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