Two girls changing the world: Young musician turns passion into purpose
For many economically disadvantaged students in the Portland area and across the nation, there is no opportunity to pursue playing an instrument.
Isabelle Zheng, a 17-year-old junior at Catlin Gabel, is on a mission to end the decline of music education by going into local schools with her team of musically-gifted friends and teaching fourth and fifth graders how to play the flute or violin.
“In schools, music and arts education is an afterthought,” said Zheng. “Whenever there are budget cuts, music programs are cut first – especially in school districts with many on free or reduced lunch. Meanwhile, private music study can be prohibitively expensive.”
Zheng, who has been playing the flute since sixth grade, knows firsthand how important music education is for children.
“It has given me a way to express myself; develop a sense of perseverance and dedication; get over my stage fright and meet new people,” explained Zheng. “Everyone should be exposed to music even if they don’t plan to take it to its furthest extent.”
Zheng turned her passion into purpose her sophomore year when she co-founded Project Prelude, a student-run non-profit that provides group and private music lessons free of charge to economically disadvantaged youth in the Portland-metro area. Last year, Isabelle and her team provided instruments and taught 25 fourth and fifth grade students how to play the violin.
This school year, Project Prelude has expanded into two additional schools and hopes to reach 75 students through their three programs. Zheng is also looking to add flute lessons.
Instruments and other resources are provided by the Metropolitan Youth Symphony; local and national music stores such as Kennedy Violins and David Kerr; and foundation grants for youth-led nonprofits.
“My long-term goal is to continue growing Project Prelude with the help of other high school students who are interested in sharing their musical gifts with underserved children,” said Zheng.
When she isn’t fundraising, buying supplies, marketing, and wearing the hundreds of other hats executive directors of small nonprofits wear, you will find Zheng ringing up patients, visitors and staff who are buying gifts, snacks and magazines in the Legacy Good Samaritan Gift Shop.
“I felt compelled to give back to my community when I was in my sophomore year and heard about Good Sam’s student program,” said Zheng. “I have learned so much from the physicians, staff and patients. I am still deciding what I want to do long-term but this experience has definitely gotten me interested in medicine.”
Zheng just completed her second summer volunteering at Legacy Good Samaritan. She has dedicated over 100 hours of service since starting in 2016.
“Isabelle’s impact on the Good Sam community is palpable,” said Ginger Adamovics, manager of Legacy Good Samaritan Volunteer Services. “A customer from out of state recently called the Gift Shop looking for the perfect gift for a friend who was in the hospital. Isabelle stayed on the phone with her and described all the different options and found her the perfect gift for her friend. Isabelle’s support and kindness meant the world to her. We are so fortunate to work with young women as dedicated as Isabelle.”
If you would like more information about volunteering at Legacy Good Samaritan, please call Volunteer Services at 503-413-7012.
For media-related inquiries, contact Megan Deisler.