Having to go in and out of the foster care system, there are many Austin youths who feel closed off. Kids In A New Groove teaches foster kids to grow past their insecurities through musical performance.
Kids In A New Groove was founded in 2009 by Karyn Scott, a former assistant district attorney who, after years of working with juveniles through the court system, left her job to become a band manager. Eventually, Scott merged her passion for kids and music with KING.
In the last four years, KING grew from having 30 foster kids enrolled to now having as many as 130 in the program. Musical mentors work with youth ages 5 through 22, giving them one-on-one lectures on musical theory and introducing them to all sorts of instruments.
Just over a year ago, Laura Wood took over the program as executive director and carried her predecessor’s vision of creating a strong bond with foster children.
“Kids in foster care, they have so many people in and out of their lives, and all these different people know the ins and outs of their story,” Wood said. “We’re able to come from outside the system where we keep it as casual as possible to help build that relationship.”
Josh Moore was just two years old when he was placed in foster care. At age 16, Moore became involved with KING and was given a mentor to further steer his passion for piano and guitar. Moore said his experience with KING has molded him up to this point as a solo artist at age 23.
“I have a fear of social situations, but being on stage is very easy for me and where I feel most confident,” Moore said. “It’s something that I wouldn’t have explore any harder if I hadn’t been offered to be around the people at KING.”
Despite Moore already aging out of the program, KING keeps constant communication with its alumni and even offered to help Moore find musical gigs around town. Of course, Moore is also welcome to perform for the program.
“They enjoy my music and what I do with it and have asked me to come play for them,” Moore said. “They’ve done so much for me and it’s the least I could do.”
Amanda Goenaga is a UT alumna who joined KING her first year of college in 2013. Goenaga was placed in foster care her senior year in high school and felt the program was a positive aspect during turbulent times.
“It was just really cool that every week I got a free music lesson and I had a mentor all of a sudden,” Goenaga said. “It’s been really helpful, and I feel like I have support now.”
During a performance KING had arranged, Goenaga got to play alongside fiddle player Ruby Jane Smith.
“That was the first time that I recognized that I could really do something that I love and people would support me in it,” Goenaga said. “It was pretty life-changing.”
Wood wants the legacy of KING to continue to build strong foundations for foster youth through music and feels Austin is fertile ground to begin expanding.
“It’s such an open, giving community ” Wood said. “It’s been nice to have Austin as our starting point, and we would hopefully like to expand into other areas.”