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YATMA Receives Grant from the Bill &Melinda Gates Foundation for Youth Music and Arts Programs

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Mary Rossi
Youth Advancement Through Music and Art (YATMA)
Phone: 518.966.8908

SEATTLE and ALBANY, N.Y. -- Youth Advancement Through Music and Art (YATMA), a music and arts program that touches youth on two coasts, has received a $25,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

YATMA, which started in Seattle and last year brought its program to Parsons Child and Family Center in Albany, N.Y, provides private and small class instruction in a variety of musical instruments, voice, dance, creative writing and visual arts. Organization Founder and Executive Director Bill Rossi explains that, through YATMA, students learn how it feels to be successful, commit themselves, work with others and learn about themselves.

"We want to tap the human spirit, allowing children to open up and feel safe," added Rossi. "The program offers creative situations where children can use the arts to articulate themselves and release emotion. There is little opportunity for kids today to discover who they really are. We provide that opportunity to all youth, both those who are at risk and those who aren't."

The YATMA program has demonstrated its success both through research and anecdotal findings. Education 21, a Troy, N.Y.-based educational evaluator, gave YATMA high marks for helping build participant self-esteem, empowerment and pro-social behaviors. As a 18 year-old drummer from Seattle reports, "YATMA not only helped me in my musicianship, but also helped me in shaping me to who I am today. I have learned everything from leadership to friendship, from rhythm to melodies. I thank you so much."

YATMA currently serves 75 students in the greater Seattle area who are referred to the program through teen health clinics, school guidance counselors and teachers, and numerous organizations throughout the city. They teach on site at 10 different locations including the Langston Hughes Cultural Arts Center, the Seattle Art Museum, the Sandpoint Way facility, and the Southwest Youth & Family Services. Most participants receive at least partial scholarships funded by private donations.

In Albany, YATMA has partnered with Parsons Child and Family Center, which has a 100-year history of working with abused and neglected children. YATMA instruction has become a component of the children's treatment plans, and the Parsons Executive Council recently resolved that YATMA will begin contributing to the reform of the K-12 school curriculum to one that is arts-based.

"Already youths are writing poetry, setting their words to music, dancing, drumming, singing and creating. Our art and music therapists are reinventing their work -- in fact, they have been reclassified as arts educators as a first step towards integrating YATMA's ongoing, progressive approach into all of our arts programming," said Kathryn Gerbino, Ph.D., associate executive director of Parsons Child and Family Center. "So much that is positive and wholesome, creative and energizing is already occurring," she added, "and we've only just begun!" The YATMA model will soon be available for national replication.

YATMA's mission is to teach youth to learn and communicate in positive ways, providing them a clear direction for the channeling of difficult emotions, higher academic achievement, and greater social participation. YATMA stimulates and enlivens children and youth through an innovative arts-based educational approach and original, creative curriculum. For further information email or visit the web site.

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