Richmond Punch fell in love with the violin at age six.
“I must have known when I first started playing that there was something to the instrument. What I felt at that first glance – that love, that feeling…that probably did it. Although, as a child, I didn’t know what it was.”
Music eventually lead him to Dallas’ Arts Magnet High School and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Young Strings program. Yale, Juilliard and performances around the world followed.
And it all started with a single note.
Growing up in Dallas, Punch and his family struggled to make ends meet. His mother Gayle, a single parent, however, was committed to nurturing his talent.
“My mom tried to find a way for me to get all these resources,” the 29-year-old artist recalls. “I was in programs with $1,000-and-up tuitions. They had scholarships, but those scholarships only covered a couple of people with financial difficulties. The rest of the…community would be left behind.”
Wishing to open the world of music to each and every child, Punch and his family founded the Dallas Uptown Youth Orchestra in 2007. Since then, children from across the Metroplex have experienced the joy of learning an instrument and playing before a crowd.
Between the ages of six and 18, Punch’s young string musicians span all skill levels and no student is ever turned away for financial reasons. Even if a child has never played before, Punch and his team can help him or her select an instrument, whether violin, viola, cello or bass. From there, instructors including SMU and North Texas graduate students guide them through their musical journey.
Punch and his orchestra have performed at venues large and small, including the Dallas Museum of Art, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital and the Dallas Arboretum. Last Sunday, they appeared at the grand opening of the new AT&T Performing Arts Center downtown. Often, the location itself gives students valuable insight into architecture, history and culture.
In turn, these lessons compliment the focus and discipline that learning an instrument instills in each and every child.
Punch knows that even if music is destined to be a passing interest, the experience of being a part of the Dallas Uptown Youth Orchestra makes a difference for years to come. “They may not all go to Juilliard,” he explains. “They might go into other fields. They might be a doctor. But we know that the strings are a vital part of that choice.”
For more information on upcoming events and how you can support the Dallas Uptown Youth Orchestra, visit punchfamilyfoundation.org.