Soundscapes Wins Statewide Arts Education Award

NEWPORT NEWS, VA – Soundscapes was one of only five arts organizations in Virginia recognized with a Dominion Energy ArtStar Award for its innovative and collaborative approach to arts education. Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation presented a Shining Star award and a $10,000 grant to Soundscapes and the other winners at the Art Works for Virginia Conference in Richmond on January 30.

Soundscapes is a nonprofit organization that provides free music education and instruments for at-risk and underserved students for two hours every weekday during the school year. Soundscapes uses intensive group music study and frequent performances as tools to instill self-esteem, concentration, curiosity, and determination in some of the community’s most deserving children.

Since forming in 2009, Soundscapes has partnered with Newport News Public Schools. The program takes place during the school year at Carver Elementary School, and NNPS provides transportation for all students who participate. Soundscapes also takes part in the school system’s Summer Program for Arts, Recreation and Knowledge (SPARK) by providing half-day music education at multiple schools.

Hunter Burnsed is one of the students who is active in Soundscapes, and will benefit from the $10,000 grant Soundscapes received. Hunter, an eighth grader, plays the violin and has been involved with Soundscapes for the past four years. His younger siblings, Felix and Esabella, also take part in Soundscapes. Hunter participates in the Peninsula Youth Orchestra, through a partnership between PYO and Soundscapes. He will also soon start taking private violin lessons, which Soundscapes offers to their strongest students.
“It’s important that Soundscapes is free because some people might not have the funds to be able to do something they could potentially love doing,” Hunter shares. “[Soundscapes] gave me a free instrument…which lets me play an instrument!”

Nearly 90% of Soundscapes students are from low-income households, which is why the program is completely free to participants, and why financial support from foundations like Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation is so critical.

The innovative music education model used at Soundscapes is inspired by the El Sistema philosophy, which uses orchestras to give at-risk young people the skills they need to function in society and become model citizens. Although El Sistema originated in South America over 40 years ago, it has only been in the U.S. for about 10 years. Soundscapes is the fourth-oldest organization in the U.S. inspired by El Sistema and the first in Virginia.

To learn more about Hunter’s experience with Soundscapes, please contact his parents:

  • Mother: Nicole Burnsed, 757-582-6912,
  • Father: Teddy Burnsed, 757-788-9459,

For more information about Soundscapes, please contact Carol Minter, development director, at (757) 273-6178, ext. 5 or (757) 268-4899.

For more information about ArtStars, please contact Bonita Harris at (757) 857-2700.

About Soundscapes:
Soundscapes is a nonprofit, educational intervention program that transforms lives through music. For 400 at-risk and underserved 1st-11th grade students in Newport News, Soundscapes provides:

  • Free orchestral instruments
  • Free, high-quality music instruction by professional musicians for two hours after school every weekday
  • Frequent public performances, including up to 25 concerts per year
  • Critical life skills: self-confidence, teamwork, concentration, perseverance, improved executive function, and more.

Learn more about Soundscapes at

About the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation:
Nearly 7.5 million customers in 18 states energize their homes and businesses with electricity or natural gas from Dominion Energy (NYSE: D). Through its Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation, as well as EnergyShare and other programs, Dominion Energy contributed nearly $35 million in 2018 to community causes. The Foundation supports nonprofit causes that meet basic human needs, protect the environment, promote education and encourage community vitality. Please visit to learn more.

Included Media:

  • Photo Hunter Burnsed (photo credit: Marilen Crump)
  • Video of Hunter Burnsed speaking about Soundscapes:
  • Dropbox folder with high resolution photos from Soundscapes (photo credit: Soundscapes):

Download press release here.