For wealthy families, sending the kids off to band camp in the summer is a time-honored tradition. Now the Miami Music Project, a non-profit group which collaborates with Miami-Dade County Public Schools, is bringing that music camp experience to kids from economically disadvantaged families.
So 190 elementary through high school students are choosing to become better musicians this summer at the Summer Music Camp.
"And the intensity of the programming is really our secret sauce, the fact that they do come every single day to learn, to practice," said Anna Klimala, director of the Miami Music Project. "That repetition really makes them better and better at what they do and that's how their self-confidence grows and they see if they put their minds to it, anything is possible."
The kids at the camp, based at Morningside K8 Academy in Miami, come from families that can't afford instruments or private lessons. Some are playing music for the first time, and that would not have happened without this camp.
"I wouldn't experience me playing the instrument that I fell in love with," said 7th-grader Brandon Bastian, who is learning to play drums.
"Music means a lot to me, I want to pursue a career in music," said high school junior Juliani Delerme, who is an advanced-level trumpet player.
"Our main motto is 'composing better lives,' and that is really the biggest value of the program, the music is really used as a tool to bring about change and social transformation to these communities and these kids," Klimala said.
The camp covers every level of musical ability, from kids who are picking up real instruments for the first time to students who have been playing for years.
Rufus Jones teaches at Hallandale High School and conducts the camp's intermediate orchestra. He knows the struggles of these kids; growing up, Jones was just like them.
"Giving back is kind of my role, not just as the person who provides good instruction but to mentor, provide advice on where the students want to go when they leave high school," Jones said.
The camp is only four weeks long. During the school year, Miami Music Project serves 600 kids with free, after-school lessons at several public school campuses. The byproduct of this process is right in tune with academic success.
"Your memory improves, your patience improves, your behavior improves, we've seen incredible improvements in those skills," Klimala explained. "The main goal really is giving them the ability to do something they normally would never have access to."