North Winds Celebrates 35 Years with YAMA! News


North Winds Celebrates 35 Years with YAMA!

Mar 23, 2022

YAMA is delighted to acclaim 35 years of engaging and inspiring performances by woodwind quintet North Winds. In 1987, five musicians from the New England Conservatory performed Peter and the Wolf in front of a group of young people, and never looked back! Members of the North Winds ensemble have described the group as feeling 'like a family,' and it is clear through their development of programs for YAMA that they are truly dedicated to sharing their talents and knowledge with young people.

The program Wind Works was created to encourage young people to learn about the woodwind instruments and musical concepts of composition such as melody, accompaniment, and style. The ensemble also engages school bands and music departments with Master Classes, and makes sure early learners are not excluded with Meet the Woodwind Family, a program for PreK-3rd grade students. Most recently, members of the ensemble composed an original piece telling the beloved story of the Bremen Town Musicians, each animal in the story reflected by an instrument in the quintet. North Winds has also performed for many of our Expanded Arts Access programs, including Healing Arts for Kids.

YAMA Staff were delighted to chat with North Winds flutist, Jacqueline DeVoe, about her extensive experience as a musician and music educator, and her reflections on more than 30 years of performing for young people with North Winds.

What brought you to performing for young people?

I had studied in Boston, lived abroad, played in other places, and came back to Boston in 1990. It was Spring of ‘91 that I did my first performance with North Winds for Young Audiences in Brookline. . . I thought it was a fantastic thing to be playing for children in their schools. They invited me to join the group, and I said, “Absolutely, I’d love to.” 

The group has been fairly stable through the years. We feel like we're kind of a family in many ways. . . I would say the most busy time for the quintet and YAMA working together was in the late 90s. We’d come out for a residency in Western Massachusetts and be hosted by South Mountain Concert Association. We would play all over Western Massachusetts, and that was fantastic. Most of the YAMA schools I know are in the Boston area, maybe as far out as Worcester, so this was a really nice change of venue and new audiences.

What is a highlight of your time performing for YAMA?

One really touching story for me…my quintet was playing in many many schools, and this was right towards the end of the school year. I would guess it was about 1995 or ‘96. Things had quieted down, school was out, and I was at a yard sale in Jamaica Plain. I was looking over the things being offered at the yard sale, and a little girl came up to me and said, “Is your name Jackie?”

I said, “Yes it is,” and she said, “And you play the flute!” I said, “Yes, I do!” thinking, “How did she know that?!” Then, she looked very proud, and she said, “You came to my school and played for us.”

I just thought that was amazing because obviously we touch these kids, they’re out of school now, they’re in a different place, and she picked me out of a crowd. That obviously made an impression. 

We've also gone back to schools when schools have had us every two years, and the children are now two years older…They come up to us and say, “I remember you! You played for us two years ago,” or, “You played for us before!” These programs are really effective, and the hands-on, up-close-and-personal performances make a big difference in these children's futures.

What is your wish for the future of arts education?

My biggest wish is that society values what we do. There are too many schools where the sports program is very very highly funded, and the music program, arts program, and theater program are not nearly as well funded, well thought of, or well attended. That's an important part of life, not that sports isn’t, but art should be equal at least to those programs. That would be my big wish, and that's one of the reasons you want to expose kids to art. 

Everybody can get something from the arts, even if they’re going to go be doctors, if they’re going to be lawyers, if they're going to be politicians, or researchers, or anything that is not a professional musician. Exposure to the arts is going to make their life more well-rounded, and maybe make them even function better in their career choice.  

An awareness of the arts and an interest in participating in the arts, not just being a spectator, but participating…that starts at an early age. One of the things that we can do through Young Audiences is to give them an awareness of the fact that, “Hey, I started playing the flute in 4th grade just like you did, and here I am because I love it so much.” To make them realize that we all started in the same program. In fact, all of the North Winds performers went to public schools, and all started their instruments through the band program. That right away tells you how important it is to have music programs in the schools. Keeping music and arts in their lives is really a good thing.