Chinita Pointer: Youth advocate taps talent through music

Chinita Pointer
Photo by Jason Speakman

When Chinita Pointer lost her husband — famed musician Noel Pointer — in 1994, she and her family wanted to start a foundation to finish the many projects he left behind.

The world-renowned, Grammy-nominated, jazz violinist and composer — who made his solo debut at age 13 performing Vivaldi with the Symphony of the New World Orchestra — believed learning to play a string instrument was a transformative experience that advanced a child’s life, says his wife, who has made his fantasy a reality for more than 100,000 families though the Noel Pointer Foundation.

“My initial vision was to begin a string music program for kids of color to gain an appreciation for classical culture,” says Pointer, whose first fans remain the couple’s children, Danai, Danielle, and Noel.

Pointer’s daughter Danai says the Woman of Distinction rose above the most difficult time in her life by envisioning a youth orchestra and a music school for children to empower them, one note at a time.

“My mom took on the overwhelming task of raising three children on her own, and started to turn a nightmare into a dream,” says Danai. “Through her leadership, the foundation has kept our father’s legacy alive, and made her dreams come true.”

The Noel Pointer Foundation started in 1998 with just 18 students at PS 44, but quickly expanded to 26 other public schools because it fulfilled a great need for music education and the arts. Today, it offers music enrichment projects, including the Summer String and Saturday Strings programs, and private instruction in the After-School Strings Program. There is also a Training Orchestra, the Noel Pointer Youth Orchestra, and the professional Phantazia String Players, who have performed from Steinway Hall to Summer Stage. In addition, the Noel Pointer Foundation Youth Orchestra has performed with the Brooklyn Philharmonic and Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, Strings of Brooklyn, Mos Def, and Mark O’Connor.

Pointer’s determination, hard work, and unique outlook have been life-changing for others, and made her a Renaissance woman, says Danai.

“From driving like Annie Oakley to dressing like Katherine Hepburn, my mom’s the perfect mix of whimsical abandon and sophistication,” she says. “She always seems to know what to do or say to improve a situation, bring a smile to the face of a loved one, child or stranger, and illuminate a room.”

The devoted daughter says Pointer remains dedicated to ensuring the next generation has opportunities to create, socialize and improve their education through the arts.

“As long as our mother continues to imagine, children from Bensonhurst to Brooklyn Heights will experience the extraordinary act of playing music,” says Danai.

For the honoree, music remains a magical wand with which to tap young talent.

“We have changed so many children’s lives because of the vision of the program, and the wonderful and dedicated teachers we have had,” says Pointer. “So many children lives have been saved simply because they have picked up that instrument.”

Neighborhood: Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Occupation: Executive Director.

Company: The Noel Pointer Foundation.

Claim To Fame: My children.

Favorite Brooklyn Place: “The Promenade, where my husband and I used to court.”

Woman I Admire: “My mother — if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing.”

Motto: “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supplies.”

More from Around New York