In room 104 of the Fine Arts Center, several students and faculty gathered together to hear the lecture about “MusicReach Educational Outreach at University of Miami.” The speaker was Dr. Melissa Lesniak, the director of outreach for Donna E. Shalala.
MusicReach is a Program that started in 2007 with four undergraduate student mentors and eight mentees from the Greater Miami Youth Symphony. Lesniak and the MusicReach graduate teaching assistants, witnessed 20 undergraduate mentors serve more than 40 mentees each week. The program has provided life changing music instruction and life guidance to more than 4000 elementary, middle, and high school students in the Miami-Dade area.
John Ash, band director at CF, commented that the lecture was fantastic and insightful into what could happen in communities, and what could happen when you involve music and musicians into communities of institutions of higher education.
Some of the programs provided at the FROST school of Music include music camp, chorus, strings, coordination, percussion, and guitar. During the lecture, Lesniak shared videos of what the classes were like. Groups of young students played their violas and violins for a school recital. Another video displayed a class of young children, gathered around their teacher playing chopsticks; an exercise for coordination. Similarly, a group of young students were gathered together in a church, playing percussion on drums.
According to statistics that Lesniak shared, 90 percent of parents agreed that these programs keep their students busy and out of trouble. 100 percent of them agreed that the programs provide new windows of opportunity that otherwise wouldn’t be available to them. As a result, some young middle school students get into musical magnet programs, and undergraduate students gain valuable teaching experiences within the MusicReach program.
After the lecture, Dr. Sarah Satterfield, a music teacher at CF, said that she thought she [Lesniak] gave great insight into the program and that it could be easily adapted here at CF.
A pamphlet from Lesniak included some students’ testimonies that they were greatly impacted by their experience at the program. As they grew in their lessons, they also grew towards greater academic ambitions and confidence in themselves. The benefits of being paired up with another student that studied the same instrument, gave them the tailored attention they needed from their mentors.
Many of the instruments used at the school relies on the generosity of donations, and grants. Funders help to supply the needs of the music education programs for the young children and youth of South Florida. These funds as well, provide scholarship support to the undergraduates, and graduate student teaching assistant stipends.
MusicReach also touches the lives of those outside of UM, they have programs established in multiple public schools of impoverished neighborhoods. The program gives troubled teens the opportunity to learn music after school for free, and lessons are semi-private for four years. The benefits of these classes leave a positive and lasting impact to the community.
Brandon Harding, a CF student, said it was nice finding out that the program could reach out to students that had no connection to music whatsoever. He knows of kids in Ocala that don’t have the money to pay for lessons, who would benefit from it.
Story and photo by: Rosa De Saron Caro