Orange County Title I Students Receive Free Music Lessons From Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra Musicians Through The Music Mentors Program

OPO Clarinetist Seok Hee Jang with students during a sectional.


Free virtual music lessons are now available to Orange County Title I students for the third year. Thanks to Title I and ESSER III federal grants obtained by Orange County Public Schools, students in participating schools can sign up for 30-minute virtual lessons with musicians from the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra through the Music Mentors Program (MMP). 

Originally starting from a need to help students gain access to music education resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has flourished and continued due to the impact seen in participating students. Once signed up for lessons, students are paired with a musician based on their instrument type, though all students can participate regardless of their experience level. Once a student is paired, they complete their lessons virtually once a week during school hours. Students work with OPO musicians on their music fundamentals and instrument repertoire in their lessons. Outside of lessons, students are also invited to attend Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra’s open rehearsals at Steinmetz Hall at Dr. Phillips Center.

In July 2023, a program evaluation was completed on the Music Mentors Program by Debbie Fahmie and Dr. Carolyn Walker Hopp. In their findings, it is stated in the program evaluation overview that “The benefit of private lessons outside of their school band class not only increased their skills on their instruments, but also appeared to improve their attitude, engagement, and overall participation in music.”

Though the program is currently for virtual lessons, there are plans to expand the program to more schools across different counties, add more OPO musicians to teach lessons and bring musicians into the schools for sectionals. Currently, the program consists of Title I Schools elected to be a part of the opportunity. Participating schools this school year include: 

  • Westridge Middle School
  • Jones High School
  • Oak Ridge High School
  • Evans High School
  • Meadowbrook Middle School
  • Memorial High School
  • Walker Middle School

In the program evaluation, district music teachers were surveyed on the program’s effect in the classroom. One music teacher responded, “…students who have been enrolled in virtual lessons have demonstrated a higher level of engagement in the rehearsal! It makes a huge difference… all students are performing at a higher level which allows them to learn more efficiently by being constantly engaged in the music-making process.”

Regarding engagement in the classroom, one music teacher responded “I have seen a dramatic increase in my students’ engagement. Students are coming in to practice during lunch, before, and after school.”

Tutoring runs each school year from October to May and there are currently 47 students participating, with room for several more. Starting this April, the Orlando Philharmonic will be sending musicians to the participating schools to host in-person studio sessions where students of the same instrument who are studying with that teacher will come together in a group setting. These studio sessions and individual tutoring with students also act as supplemental support to band directors at the supporting schools, many of whom are early career educators. Orlando Philharmonic musicians currently teaching in the MMP include:

  • Emma Koi – Flute
  • Seok Hee Jang – Clarinet
  • Linda VanBuren – Violin
  • Alex Stevens – Violin, principal second
  • Joe Henderson – Viola, assistant principal

In the MMP evaluation in 2023, one student responded about the changes they noticed by taking virtual lessons through the program by stating “I’ve learned to be more confident in my playing abilities, playing dynamics with more sound to the listener, and I learned I could play pieces I never thought I could ever play.”

If your school is interested in participating in the free music tutoring program, band directors must reach out to Bryan Munera, Orange County Public Schools Program Specialist, Music 6-12.

The Music Mentors Program’s funding is provided in part through Title I and ESSER III federal grants obtained by Orange County Public Schools. Without their support, the Orlando Philharmonic would not be able to reach these students and support students in their music journey.

Outside of the Music Mentors Program, Virtual Music Lessons are also available all year round directly through the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra. For questions regarding the Music Mentors Program and other Orlando Philharmonic education programs, please email