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‘We build community through music’: Hopewell Music in north Minneapolis

“The north side is a desert when it comes to music and music education, which is really sad,” said Jaette Carpenter, co-founder of Hopewell Music Cooperative North, a nonprofit whose offices and performance space are located in the basement of North United Methodist Church in the Webber-Camden neighborhood of Minneapolis.  “People like The Andrews Sisters and Prince, who came from north Minneapolis, would be really sad if they knew the state of music here right now.”

Happily for all concerned, Hopewell has been carrying the torch for music education for the last eight years. Per its mission statement, “Hopewell Music is enriching lives and empowering community in North Minneapolis through accessible high-quality music education,” and Saturday afternoon that mission came to fruition with the group’s annual honors recital concert.

“We’re here to grow music where it hasn’t been for quite some time,” said Carpenter Saturday afternoon, as students and their families filed in for the recital. “It’s usually the first thing on the auction block with any school for funding. I’ve seen it slowly decline. I was at Henry High School in 1973 and there was a full orchestra and a full band there, and a choir, and when I went back there to help teach piano, there was none of that. The void is huge. When you call around to all the north Minneapolis schools, including the charter schools, there’s still very little music. So we’re hoping that if they grow again and add it to the budget, because of how important it its, then our kids will be able to come right in with their knowledge of music and we’ll have some incredible orchestras and bands in the area.”

A sign on the stairwell of North United Methodist church welcomes all to Hopewell Music Cooperative North.
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh
A sign on the stairwell of North United Methodist church welcomes all to Hopewell Music Cooperative North.

Students of all ages and skill levels take lessons at Hopewell, some of whose graduates are now playing music in college and professionally. Perhaps the organization’s mission is best distilled by a quote on a poster that hangs in the basement, from writer and poet Henry Van Dyke: “Use the talents you possess, for the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except the best.”

MinnPost took in the Hopewell recital, in photos and interviews:

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Jaette Carpenter: “I’m one of the co-founders at Hopewell. Eight years ago when we started, it was pretty bare. We were in one room of River of Life Church that we rented out on 22nd and Fremont. Now we have 160 students that take private lessons, who are involved in our orchestra, our community choir, our youth choir, our ukulele group, our flute ensemble, and our jazz ensemble. It really has grown. Some of our students are just graduating college now, and playing their instruments. We see multi-success stories.

“I know what playing music has done for my own daughter, who has special needs. She has Rett Syndrome, and the sun rises and sets for her with music. If she’s angry, we can calm her down with music. And my students here, I’ve seen kids who are so extremely shy and the change is just stunning. I had one girl who would barely speak a word, and now she’s on her third year in the Guthrie.”

Melissa Merab, Net Sayi, Richelieu Dillan Dixon
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Melissa Merab, Net Sayi, Richelieu Dillan Dixon. Merab: “We’re Dillan’s aunts. I think Hopewell has helped him to develop piano abilities, and also to help him sit still because he moves around a lot. It gives him something that’s calming and helps him focus on something.” Sayi: “I was a Hopewell student and played piano. Music is one of my creative outlets, and it helped me get in tune with my creativity, but now I’m not doing instruments anymore. I’m a writer and I listen to classical music when I write. Dillan broke his arm doing handstands breakdancing, and his mom got him into it to restore his motor skills.” Dixon: “I’ve been playing piano for two years; I’m playing ‘Skip to My Lou’ today, by memory. It helps my fingers relax.”

Deacon and Caleb Garn
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Deacon and Caleb Garn: “We live about a mile away, in Robbinsdale,” said Caleb, co-founder of the music-centric coffee shop empire Five Watt. “We stumbled on Hopewell because they reached out to Five Watt to do a fundraiser three years ago. I let my wife, Angie, know that they were just down the road, and we’ve done a few fundraising efforts for them and some of their teachers have played at the shops. Both Deacon and our daughter Josie go here, and it’s been a great experience. The thing I love most is their origin, and that they started in the community, which is something I hold really valuable. And the fact that it was a couple of women starting it in their homes and growing into what has become a really unique, powerful force in the community. I firmly believe that kids that get involved in music do better not only in school and academia, but life in general. It’s a really cool thing and we’re proud to be part of it.”

Ellie Fregni
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Ellie Fregni: “I’m one of the co-founders. I’m program manager and I teach strings and direct the orchestra. We wanted to start a place that was accessible to everybody, regardless of age, income, physical ability, or skill level. We wanted to eliminate the barriers to participating in a music program. We build community through music. We have people of all ages participating, working together, and working hard to make great sounds, make great music.”

Xavier Gomez, Mari Gomez, and Omar Gomez
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Xavier Gomez, Mari Gomez, and Omar Gomez. Xavier: “I really love it. I’ve been playing for three years. I go to jazz ensemble every Monday and I have lessons on Tuesday, and it’s really fun.”

Mari: “As a parent, it’s been great to see his confidence develop, from standing up on his own two feet and playing in front of people, and it’s been really great for him to be part of a multi-generational group.”

Omar: “We’ve lived in the neighborhood for a while, and there was another program that left when he was really young, and we were really bummed. When we heard about Hopewell, my first question was, ‘How viable are you?’ We didn’t want something that would get pulled away again, so we’re really excited, and the last fundraising campaign was really successful, so we’re happy that Hopewell will be around. Xavier’s passion is there, and that’s the sweet part about it. He’s really involved in it, and that’s so great to see.”

Ellie Fregni accompanied a young violinist at Hopewell Music Collective North’s honors recital on March 7.
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh
Ellie Fregni accompanied a young violinist at Hopewell Music Collective North’s honors recital on March 7.

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