Teacher helps a community fall in love with classical music

For a group of about 60 kids in New York City, the sound of music is paving the way to new opportunities. Their melody makes you forget that they are four to 14 years old, playing in an orchestra in the basement of a public library in Queens, New York.

“This could culturally and artistically revive this community,” says music teacher Alvaro Rodas.

The children are part of the Corona Youth Music Project, a free program that aims to empower low-income children through classical music and show them that they can turn their passion for music into a profession.

“It’s not a little group of kids here in this basement,” explains Rodas. “It’s all the kids in the neighborhood that have an opportunity and that option.”

Rodas founded the program after being a percussionist in the Venezuelan music movement El Sistema, a program that introduces classical music to the neediest communities in the country.

The youth program started with 100 children who practiced on buckets because there weren’t enough instruments. Now more than three hundred kids have gone through the program.

With donations from instrument shops from around the country, the mini-Mozarts have enough violins and cellos to allow them to fine tune their passion for music.

“Good music making is going to be a byproduct of this program, but the real goal is to embed a process thinking that you can do whatever you want; you just have to work hard enough,” says Rodas.

And the lesson of hard work has been making a difference in the lives and self-esteem of the kids.

“I feel great because I learn from my mistakes and improve more in the future,” says Jason Diaz, 10, who has been part of the orchestra for the past two years.

“Playing the violin may not be the most attractive option for a kid, but the fact that they are coming back means that there is something happening,” says Rodas.

It’s this encouragement that is being felt and heard through the community.

Denise Royal contributed to this report

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