With a passion to play, kids can reach prodigy-potential through cultural arts program

Standing tall and proud in her kitchen, 9-year old Lalya plays her favorite song as if she were first chair in an orchestra. 

"I get to play the violin. I've always wanted to play an instrument. I always thought instruments were cool. So it's exciting," said Layla

She's been practicing for more than a year and is very pleased with her progress.

"I'm learning harder songs now. I already know all the strings and stuff," Layla said proudly. "The violin has 4 strings. E, A, D, G. E is the highest. G is the lowest."

Her confidence and talent are thanks, in part, to Prodigy. The free program is offered through the University Area Cultural Development Corporation, which makes cultural arts accessible to people of all ages. In the 20 years since its development, Prodigy has enlightened more than 40,000 kids through music, dance and art. 

"We don't teach art for arts' sake. We infuse our arts with life skills such as problem solving, goal setting, team building, leadership development, anger management," explained Mike.  "And those are really important for all young kids to develop." 

They, too, have made changes since the coronavirus pandemic started. Prodigy classes are now virtual, connecting students with their instructors online. Layla's practices weekly with her teacher Luz, who plays with Florida Orchestra.

When she's not in class, Layla puts aside about 30 minutes a day to fine tune her craft, which is more proof of her passion to play. 

"Our young people have loved it and so have their parents and others who support the program," said Prodigy director, Mike Trepper. "It's kept young people safe, engaged and use their creative spirits during such a tough time for all of us."

Layla's dad sees the passion his daughter has for the violin and couldn't be more proud.

"She's always been a great kid but since she got on the violin it's matured her," said Gilbert Ortiz. "It's polished the diamond she already was. She's getting even more perfect."

A proud father and a delighted daughter, all thanks to the power of Prodigy. 

Learn more about the Prodigy program by clicking over to the University Area Cultural Development Corporation's website.