Debora Wondercheck’s Story

Debora Wondercheck's Story

I was as 10 years old when my journey began.

I had my cello on my back and suitcase in my hand with 3 of my other siblings, escaping on a train from Chicago to Denver Co.

You might ask now why did you have a cello on your back? Well, my mom at the age of 10 had a deep desire to play an instrument. Although she attended a school in the 50’s where the systemic and prevailing discrimination of that time denied her the opportunity to play. 

This hurt her deeply, but she vowed that when she had children, they would all play instruments.

So, a marriage and seven children later, here I am, the youngest of 7 kids. I remember the sounds of music in our home. Violins, Violas, Cellos, and String Bass. 

  • Being in a musical family was constant, joy, fun, 
  • Sounds of Vivaldi, Bach, sacred music, worship music, Gospel 

But there was another ominous sound in our home as well. It followed a rhythmic cadence this sound evoked: 

  • Fear, confusion, anger, uncertainty 

It’s the reason the suitcase is in my hand. My mom was in a volatile, abusive and dangerous marriage. So much so that when my three older siblings received music scholarships to attend colleges out of state, it should have been a joyous occasion. But for my mom it was a pre-calculated, strategic time of studying and planning for months prior to graduation, because drastic changes were coming.  

With just four children now at home, my mom saw an opportunity to escape a life-threatening situation, Drastic changes were necessary. 

So, with a cello on my back and suitcase in hand along with my siblings, we escaped on a train from Chicago to Denver, CO. We stayed in a homeless shelter 3 months.

We moved again this time to San Diego, Salvation Army shelter. We moved again to a women’s shelter in Oceanside. 

By this time, my self-esteem was at an all-time low, it effected my confidence, I began to shrink in who I was.

But across the street from the shelter in Oceanside was ….an arts magnet School 

  • Played my cello in the school strings class 
  • Quickly realized that it made no difference where I lived, how much money I did or didn’t have, what I looked like. 
  • What made a difference was the respect I received, and the sense of value felt through developing and creating my voice through my instrument- that gave me such confidence. 
  • I had tremendous encouragement from inspiring instructors along the way. I had my mom who believed in and prayed and spoke life over me- Which helped me see- ME 

I FOUNDED the Arts & Learning Conservatory a non-profit 

  • Serving children at the schools where they attend with high quality arts- making the arts accessible is why we exist.

Benefits of Arts & Learning Conservatory

  • According to a study from MIT, learning music, not coding, makes kids smarter. Neuroscience shows that learning a musical instrument increases brain power and functionality, in the short and long term.

Children who study music and engage in the arts perform better in school:

  • improved literacy, higher grades, 24% more likely to graduate, academically are 1 yr ahead of peers
    • Positive attributes: 
      • confidence, independence, leadership, responsibility, perseverance, adaptability, advanced problem-solving skills 
      • On average 66% of music majors who apply to medical schools are accepted
      • 35% of Conservatory graduates go on to careers in the STEM field.
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