Miami Music Project Strives to Keep Music in Schools

Written By Josie Gulliksen
November 20, 2015 at 1:49 PM

Miami Music Project Strives to Keep Music in Schools

“Miami Music Project uses music as an instrument for social transformation, empowering children to acquire values and achieve their full potential, positively affecting their society through the study and performance of music.”

That is the powerful and encouraging mission statement of this organization, established in 2008 by James Judd, former director of the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra with additional support from a Knight Arts Challenge Grant, various government grants, foundation donations, corporate contributions, and in-kind services.

Modeled as a tuition-free, intensive after-school program, Miami Music Project provides the students at their four Miami-Dade Public School sites with a fully integrated music curriculum. Those sites are John I. Smith K-8 in Doral, Citrus Grove Middle School in Little Havana, Charles Drew K-8 in Liberty City, and Toussaint Louverture Elementary in Little Haiti.

Across all of the sites, Miami Music Project has been welcomed by the schools, as an additional opportunity to engage their students through the arts.

“Simultaneously, we understand that we supplement the tremendous work that the public school teachers do during the day, and advocate that the arts (specifically music) are critical for the development of our youth into valued citizens of our community,” said Steven Liu, director of Educational Programming for Miami Music Project.

Steven Liu directing the students of Miami Music Project. Photo courtesy of Miami Music Project 

The program is broken down into five different academic levels and five symphonic orchestras with an 11-instrument curriculum. The almost 500 participating students receive instruction in violin, viola, cello, bass, trombone, French horn, trumpet, flute, clarinet, oboe, and percussion. They’re taught by 24 teaching artists and seven teaching assistants.

That translates to more than 60,000 teaching and performing hours provided each year and instruction three to five days a week.

Observing the various groups in session in Little Haiti, it was obvious the students have a great rapport with their instructors. Probably because independent of their job titles and functions, they also create a safe and enriched environment for the kids. There they learn valuable life skills acquired by learning an instrument, which is often challenging and very difficult.

They also learn how to work with other people, how to accomplish a goal step by step, how to work at something over a very long period of time, how to communicate with other people even teach others what they’ve learned.

Photo by Amanda Smith Photography

“All Miami Music Project staff and teaching artists have professional development sessions throughout the year,” said Liu. “The fact that our teaching artists and staff are willing to participate in these sessions, highlights their commitment to the mission on the whole, and can only improve what they are bringing to our children.”

In an effort to learn how the program rewards participants, the organization is currently working with FIU Bridge to evaluate the social impact on the students. They are also participating in a national research initiative to represent the social transformation they seek to catalyze through ensemble based music making.

The program should receive outstanding marks for both of these given that the students are being taught by staff that understand the value of music and strive for the overall goal of “helping to create a healthier community filled with engaged youth who will ideally turn into valuable members of society,” said Liu.

Catch the students performing in December at various venues around Miami-Dade. Visit their Website to view the schedule and more about Miami Music Project,


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