Joint Partnership Makes a Joyful Noise at Casa View Elementary

The students had to assemble their violins. 

Under a canopy of large oak trees in the courtyard at Casa View Elementary, children and their parents gathered Sept. 23 to help launch a new ministry. Esperanza Strings was born from the three-way partnership between Casa Linda UMC, StringRise and the One+One Dallas initiative of First UMC Dallas.

Months of preparation were brought to fruition as parents helped their children build box violins and were introduced to the Esperanza Strings music education program to be hosted at Casa View Elementary School this year. A group of 16 second- and third-graders will use the box violins for music lessons after school three days a week.

Rev. Rosedanny Ortiz shares how this program came into being.

“The last Saturday of the month, we do ‘Love Your Neighbor’ walks in the community,” Rev. Ortiz said. “We go through the neighborhood, we knock on doors and try to meet our neighbors. My associate pastor was going through the apartments in front of the church, and the neighbors were asking about music classes because the previous pastors could play instruments and Casa Linda UMC used to have a music academy.”

While that expressed need was on her mind, Rev. Ortiz also reached out to her former Perkins Internship mentor pastor, Rev. Holly Bandel at First UMC Dallas, to get advice about ways to connect with the community surrounding Casa Linda UMC. Rev. Bandel suggested rebuilding a connection with the elementary school that sits just a few blocks from the church.

“Rosedanny also mentioned that the parents would like a music program. I told her I didn’t know how to do that, but I know Nicole Melrose. And Nicole knows how to do this. She’s been very successful at another elementary school with a violin music program,” Rev. Bandel said.

So, the three women met to see if a partnership could emerge and they began laying the groundwork for Esperanza Strings.

“It’s amazing to know the Holy Spirit is involved in bringing these ideas and people together,” said Bandel.

Melrose is the founder of StringRise, a social entrepreneurship with a mission to close the racial and socio-economic disparity gaps in string education. As a strings instructor and Perkins School of Theology graduate, Melrose has had previous success with the Ubuntu music program she launched in 2014.

“I’m so excited to have Nicole with us initially as our consultant and now with StringRise,” Rev. Ortiz said. “The idea is that we are using what has already been created. Nicole has already done this at another school in Dallas so it’s practically multiplying their resources again to create this program not totally from scratch.”

They needed a new name and, as Melrose and Ortiz talked, they decided to focus on hope.

“We decided on Esperanza Strings, because that is our goal: to bring hope to the kids that will be here experiencing this program,” Rev. Ortiz said.

Rev. Ortiz had the idea to bring the program to the school rather than expecting the neighbors to come to them. When Casa View Principal Lucero Andazola was first approached by Melrose and Ortiz, she was very supportive and said yes to it all.

“Bringing music into the building is important because not everyone is good at the same things,” Andazola said. “People have different talents – some people are really good at robotics or math, and there are some people who are really naturally good at music. And if you don’t ever have an opportunity to play an instrument or sing a song you will never find out about that talent or you’ll never develop that talent.

“So, bringing the opportunity for the kids to have that experience, I think it is just so important because you never know. There could be a little Mozart over there that we don’t know about. It's just about giving the proper opportunities at the right time for the right children so they can develop it.”


Nicole Melrose

(Left to right) Violin teacher Diana Zavala, Nicole Melrose, violin teacher Jonathan Chern, Rev. Holly Bandel, Pastor Rosedanny Ortiz and Casa View Elementary Principal Lucero Andazola.

Said Melrose: “To bring music into a space that doesn't have music is to bring self-discovery, agency, hope, to be tapped into yourself in a new way that you didn't know existed. For me it’s about these kids coming in and seeing something in themselves that they didn’t know was there before and then developing that, in community, as they connect with each other and their parents come to the concerts and see their kids do something they’ve never seen them do before.”

For her part, Rev. Ortiz is hopeful that this is the first of many steps toward building community with her church’s neighbors.

blessing the violins

“My hope is that we as a church can get to know our community, to start building meaningful relationships so that way we may know what they really need and then as a church we can respond,” she said. “Sometimes we assume a lot, ‘Oh they need this,’ but we’re not asking them.”

The funding support from One+One Dallas, which received a "Ministry With" grant from the NTC Center for Missional Outreach for initiatives like this one, helped provide the cost of materials and instruction for the first semester of Esperanza Strings.

“What One-plus-One Dallas wants to do is build bridges between schools and faith communities,” Rev. Bandel said. “And that’s exactly what’s happening here. It really is the power of bringing people together and seeing what can happen. Now, this has launched an amazing ministry that’s going to benefit these children and their families. I am super excited to just be a part of the connection.”

If you would like to provide support for the second semester of Esperanza Strings, you may contribute by contacting Rev. Rosedanny Ortiz at [email protected]

Any church that would like to consider partnering with StringRise to launch a similar music education program in your community can reach out to Nicole Melrose at [email protected]


Published: Wednesday, October 13, 2021