Above: Miami Music Project. Photo by Renata Volfe.
Earlier this month, Knight Arts grantee Miami Music Project celebrated its Fantastic Season Finale for 2016–a celebration honoring outstanding musicians from four of its local chapters: Liberty City, Little Havana, Little Haiti and Doral. The following week, it kicked off its Summer Music Camp–Miami’s only El Sistema-inspired program designed to transform the social and academic lives of young musicians through high-quality musical training.
“Students participate in sectional and orchestra rehearsals, undergo daily repertoire analysis, and participate in intensive social development activities,” Maritza Diaz, the organization’s communications and marketing director, said of the summer program, which runs through July 8. “The focus is to provide comprehensive music education through orchestral participation from very early stages, group lessons and peer teaching.”
The summer camp is a lab and an incubator that harnesses the power of music and teamwork to help kids make substantive changes in their lives. It has the potential to be transformative and catapult some young musicians into becoming the next Nina Simone (who started off as a classical pianist) or Jay Z.
“The benefits of music education are powerful and far-reaching,” Diaz said. Indeed, music education and music therapy have been linked to modifying and treating substance abuse, and have also been shown to have a positive impact on childhood development and education, especially within populations lacking self-confidence and problem-solving skills.
“Involvement in music provides a healthy escape [for] at-risk youth. It gives them a sense of hope and belonging and facilitates reaching their untapped and boundless potential,” said Diaz. “Our program develops social inclusion [by] creating environments in which students from different cultural, social and economic backgrounds can interact and collaborate with orchestras, choruses and other musical ensembles.”
In addition to the summer camp, Miami Music Project is also active year-round. “Designed as a tuition-free, intensive after-school program, we provide a fully integrated music curriculum for children in first grade and up from at-risk demographics and those who otherwise would not have the opportunity to take advantage of learning an instrument,” Diaz said.
Miami Music Project accepts applications for new and experienced students throughout the year. Currently, new students are eligible for the Doral, Little Haiti and Liberty City chapters if they are in first through fifth grade.
This investment in fostering local musicians appears to be worthwhile. Recently, 23 Miami Music Project students were accepted to the National Take A Stand Festival, a joint initiative of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Aspen Music Festival and Longy School of Music of Bard College. Miami Music Project is the only organization sending students to Bard College and the Aspen Music Festival and School in Colorado.
It is also encouraging that students choose to remain involved with Miami Music Project in various capacities long after they age out of certain programs. In 2016, Kelsey Milian received an honorable mention for the group’s prestigious Silver Knight Award for the Social Sciences. She joined the Doral chapter in 2010 and became an active member of the children’s orchestra. In 2013, Kelsey joined Miami Music Project’s advanced youth orchestra. Milian now volunteers by teaching 6-8 year-olds how to play violin at the Doral chapter.
Milian is just one young musician whose life has been transformed by Miami Music Project–and now she’s paying it forward. All it took was an application.
The Miami Music Project’s children’s orchestra will perform at Knight Concert Hall on Saturday, July 9, at 1:30 p.m. Information about how to apply to Miami Music Project is available online.