A History by Anya Grokhovski, DMA, MBAW CEO, Founder & Artistic Director

The beginning of Musical Bridges Around the World’s educational programs started at the oldest official venue for Mexican culture in the U.S., Instituto Cultural de Mexico. We’ve always had an excellent relationship with this gem of a space in San Antonio. It’s the largest cultural arm of Mexico in the country, outside of Washington, DC. The performance hall seats about 180 people, and our first audiences were children from surrounding schools who walked to the concerts with their teachers. As the series grew, we learned that many schools faced logistical challenges such as getting kids to the venue. As a result, we decided to move the program into the schools and bring the concerts directly to the students. This was the start of our Kids to Concerts program in 2001.

Anya’s students dressed up to perform for schools in 2006.

One highlight from the early days of Kids to Concerts was the Mozart season. In 2006, we celebrated his 250th birthday by creating characters based on young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his older sister Nannerl. We decided to go all out and make it a costumed season and my piano students, sisters Yvonne and Vanessa Freckmann, dressed in period costumes and acted and performed in many schools that year. The kids were totally enamored!

During one of the Kids to Concerts in the Southwest Independent School District, we met a local music teacher named Caleb Gonzalez. He saw our program as an incredible asset and offered to help to share it with more schools. He connected us with many other Title I schools which allowed the program to grow to thousands of students. Caleb ended up becoming the main leader of our programs for kids, first joining the MBAW Board of Directors and then moving on to serve in his current position as Director of Educational Outreach.

As a response to inquiries from numerous Southwest School District principals in 2014, MBAW board member Dr. Awilda I. Ramos joined Caleb in the effort to better connect our musical offerings to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) requirements by creating classroom curricula. This is how the Musical Sprouts program was born. MBAW Board Chair Dr. Eric Miller and his wife Dr. Michelle Miller funded the program for two years starting in 2016, and in 2019 we were awarded a High Impact Grant from Impact San Antonio – a women’s collective giving and grant-making organization. That grant allowed us to move online and continue the Sprouts program even during the two years of the global pandemic. 

We also partnered with the University of Texas System for a total of five years to research how the introduction of global arts positively affects overall learning through Musical Sprouts. The study’s results proved that the students showed improvement in TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) comprehension, multicultural knowledge, increased attendance, engagement, better conduct, STAAR (assessment of academic readiness) grades, and enhanced English language skills. 

University of Texas researchers and MBAW educational team meet for the first time to discuss Musical Sprouts.

UTSA Associate Dean of Professional Preparation & Partnerships Dr. Belinda Bustos Flores gave her thoughts on the success of this collaboration: “As researchers, we have enjoyed working with the Musical Sprouts program. As a result of our collective efforts, we have learned how to meet the needs of the students and teachers through challenging times, while maintaining our research integrity.  We are currently working on several manuscripts that will be submitted to peer-reviewed outlets, so that we can disseminate the lessons learned and most importantly share the impact of Musical Sprouts on the children’s STEAM learning outcomes and socioemotional learning.”

Introducing children at an early age to foreign cultures in a positive way is priceless. Without leaving the classroom, students are able to travel the world through this program. Today, Musical Sprouts implements a tailored, five-lesson-plan curriculum, offered as a hybrid of live and virtual programming, and eBooks that provide equity and access to under-resourced youth in our city. By bringing the world to children at an early age, we shape the young minds of today to be the global leaders of tomorrow. Looking to the future, we are excited to partner with SAMMinistries’ after-school programs and many other educational systems in San Antonio and nationwide to share the award-winning Musical Sprouts program!