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Premier cellist helps SPAC give back

"Up until that point I was not serious at all. But I came and studied with the former principal cellist of the Philadelphia Orchestra and he was extremely inspirational and encouraging. I became what's called 'self motivated.' That was the point I decided music was my life," said Cafaro. "I devoted my life from that point on and practiced for hours to make up for lost time being a non-serious cellist."

The value of exposure to music at a young age is priceless, said Cafaro, and is why even though he wants to someday be wealthy enough to be a patron of the arts, he's content with volunteering his time for programs like "Classical Kids."

"It saddens me to see budget cuts affect the arts for which our society is dependent on for the future. If we have a society with no culture and no training in the arts, it's truly a valueless society. I started cello in public school at age nine and coming from a non-musical family, I'll feel ever indebted for that opportunity and my goal is to see that for every child in this country," said Cafaro.

Preserving what is frequently the first program to be eliminated when budget season rolls around is exactly why "Classical Kids" has existed since 1993, said SPAC's President and Executive Director Marcia White.Servicing more than 500,000 kids total, 24 schools and 13 school districts, White said the program's goal is to help create the next generation of artists and audience.

"I think it's enriched their understanding of the arts. When a student is searching for a way to fit in, sometimes music is that perfect fit for them," said White.

Students who participate are given a free pass to SPAC every year until they graduate. It targets elementary and middle school students, mostly in grades five through seven. In this year's program, students studied Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf and Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Alec Baldwin will narrate the orchestra performance in August.

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