They’ve got a lot to blow their horns about at North Miami Middle School, after the music program just got an infusion of $14,000 from the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, a charity inspired by the 1995 movie of the same name.
"This is huge for the kids, because it’s showing them that people outside of this community, outside of this school, are invested in what they’re doing,” said Jonathan de Leon, who teaches guitar at the school and applied for the grant. "It might not sound like much to people who have it but for us that built this program from the ground up, that’s an absolutely big number, $14,000."
The grant money is buying 16 new guitars along with several other instruments, so kids won’t have to share everything, they’ll be able to take instruments home to practice for the first time.
"It’s important to me because when I grow up I want to be a professional singer,” said 8th grader Santamarie Arocho, just after she played and sang a cover of Miley Cyrus’ hit song, "Wrecking Ball."
"You know, having these instruments in their hands during class and at home, I mean Malcolm Gladwell said it takes 10,000 hours to get excellent at something, so this is gonna get them on that path and really get our kids toward the goal of becoming lifelong musicians," de Leon said.
It’s not just about getting new guitars, that grant money paid for the repair of dozens of instruments, many of which were originally bought in the 1990’s. Fixing them keeps the whole music program going.
The band director knows 96 percent of North Miami Middle’s students are on free or reduced lunch. This is a student population that can’t afford its own instruments, but by repairing the old ones, there’s now enough to go around.
"It keeps the kids motivated, first off, because we perform so much and after school it gives them something to do," said Latoya Harris, who directs the concert and marching bands and stays at the school every day long after the final bell to run practice sessions.
The grant money strikes all the right chords, hits all the high notes, and will undoubtedly get more kids to fall in love with playing music.
"It’s a blessing, it’s a blessing," Harris said.
The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation is spreading the wealth, awarding grants to a total of 20 schools in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.