7 questions with Lakeisha Frith

Assistant executive director, Greater Miami Youth Symphony

Music was a part of your life since childhood. When did you know you wanted to teach?

I’ve always been a teacher in some regard. When I started playing at school, once I got to sixth grade, we were helping the fifth-graders. When I was in high school, I was helping the younger students. So teaching is something that’s always been ingrained in me—helping others, working with others. In terms of an “aha moment,” it’d probably be when, after I graduated high school, I was volunteering with my teacher, Linda Bustamante. She worked for the Greater Miami Youth Symphony and I was helping her out with rehearsal. That solidified wanting to teach music for me.

2 How deeply were you involved with Pinecrest Elementary School?

I worked on a program with their music teacher, Cynthia Kohanek. She ran the chorus and music theater programs after school. She brought me in to work with the orchestra. I taught beginning, intermediate and advanced orchestra (for 10 years), and we also had a chamber ensemble. Every year, she put on a musical production like “Beauty and the Beast,” and the orchestra would start the show.

3 Do you have any theories about music that guide you in your work?

My belief about music is that it is the only language that everyone speaks. No matter where you go in the world, everyone relates to music. Everyone listens to music. I was watching a video that someone sent me of an all-boys choir in Africa. I had no idea what they were saying but it was the most amazing sound. It’s a universal language. I feel that, with children, when we expose them to music and the arts, we’re creating a society of people who are not only cultured but sensitive and thoughtful. They learn so many skills from learning music. They learn discipline. They learn how to be a part of a group. They learn tolerance from music because it’s something that everyone understands, everyone is a part of. In our programs at the Greater Miami Youth Symphony, I’ve seen so much diversity. We have kids from all over the county and parents from all over the world speaking different languages and with different cultural backgrounds. But they come together and they make music and they truly enjoy it. It’s not so much that we’re creating musicians but that we’re creating good people in our society by teaching them music.

4 What do you enjoy about working with children at the Pinecrest Community Center?

I learn just as much from them as they learn from me because each child sees the world through different eyes. I work with different ages, kids from all over the world, and I’m always learning from them. … They cause us to pause and reflect on the busy adult life we lead. That’s what I really enjoy about working with them—the learning aspect.

5 What do you think are the most important character traits for a musician?

Listening and sensitivity. You need to be a good listener to play any style of music. And you need to be sensitive because different genres are played with different styles, different sounds, different bow techniques, if you will. The nuances in the music are what make such a big difference.

How have you seen Miami-Dade County’s music scene develop?

In the past 10 years, there’s been a lot of growth. I think people are getting more interested in the arts in Miami just because it’s all around us. You have the opera. You have Seraphic Fire [professional vocal ensemble]. A lot of groups are performing down south and then go up north to the Adrienne Arsht Center. I feel it’s been growing and growing, and we’re now starting to reach a peak with the art scene, especially in music. A lot of the groups that were young 10 years ago are more seasoned and performing more and have created an audience and a following.

Would you share something no one knows about you?

I have dance parties in my car. If I have a passenger, I’m a little bit more tame.

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