Kids’ Orchestra’s Sinella Aghasi is proof that music can shape a child’s life

Place an instrument in a child’s hand, believes Kids’ Orchestra Director of Strategic Initiatives Sinella Aghasi, and it might change the trajectory of their life. 

She’s living proof.

As an 11-year-old growing up in Iran, Aghasi was accepted to a prestigious conservatory to study violin. Instructors said it was a good fit for her naturally long fingers and precise musical ear. She says it had the added benefit of being something she could play for church services in her small Assyrian Christian community. 

Aghasi’s family immigrated to California in 2010 for better opportunities, and Aghasi, then 18, enrolled at California State University, Stanislaus. She earned a bachelor’s degree in instrumental music education and violin performance, and followed it with a master’s degree in violin performance from San Francisco State. 

Next stop: LSU, where Aghasi completed a doctorate in musical arts and violin performance in 2019. Her Ph.D. program also included a concentration in nonprofit management, which led to her past jobs with Opéra Louisiane and the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge. 

After several years of contributing to Kids’ Orchestra as a teaching artist, she joined the team of the Baton Rouge after-school program full-time in 2022—effectively coming full circle with her own musical journey. Kids’ Orchestra provides free after-school instruction to elementary children in 10 different orchestral instruments, the violin included. Kids meet with a professional musician mentor in sessions that also include homework assistance, a snack and social and emotional learning. They are lent a free instrument they can also bring home. 

In her current role, the 31-year-old is focused on helping Kids’ Orchestra expand services and increase public awareness. The program currently works with about 600 elementary students in 15 public schools. But Aghasi is quick to say Kids’ Orchestra isn’t hung up on creating the next Mozart. Rather, it uses music to help kids become better citizens. 

“They learn to work as a team,” Aghasi says. “They understand what it means to bring a vision together.” kidsorchestra.org

This article was originally published in the November 2023 issue of 225 magazine.