Music students from Cutler Bay Middle School who thought they had been invited to the NAMM Foundation’s SupportMusic Community Forum just to perform during the program were surprised to learn that $70,000 worth of musical instruments were being donated to their school.
StubHub and The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation formally donated the instruments to the school at the forum hosted in the auditorium of Miami-Dade County’s School Board Administration Building on Thursday, Oct. 29.
The event, which featured student performances by Cutler Bay Middle School and John A. Ferguson High School as well as panel discussions with local and national community leaders, was part of a live webcast advocating goals for supporting music education in communities.
The NAMM Foundation is a non-profit supported in part by the National Association of Music Merchants. StubHub is one of the world’s largest ticket marketplaces.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools was named one of the 2015 Best Communities for Music Education by the NAMM Foundation. Students were asked to submit videos that answered the question, “What Makes Music Education Great in Your School?” M-DCPS was one of six winners selected to host a two-day residency with the NAMM Foundation and the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, which is a state-ofthe- art mobile audio and HD video recording and production facility.
When it came time for the surprise announcement, a hush fell over the crowd, followed by gasps, cheers and applause from the students.
Maria Obando, in the eighth grade at Cutler Bay Middle School, was clearly moved.
“I was really excited,” Obando said later. “It means a lot to me because knowing that they shut down the music program and they did what they could to get new instruments, it means a lot to me that we’re getting new ones and we can continue learning with our program.”
For music teacher Christopher Castro the donation also had great significance.
“It means so much for the community,” Castro said. “We have been advocating for a music program. We had a very strong music program before and, fortunately, now we have a principal, Mr. Paul Pfeiffer, who is advocating stronger for a music program. He’s given me the freedom to do what I need to do to make it successful, which is great.
“These instruments will make a big difference,” Castro added. “I have about 80 students without instruments and about 30 to 40 with broken instruments who have not been able to play, who can now perform.”
Cutler Bay Mayor Peggy Bell thanked the donors and praised the leadership of the school’s principal.
“This was a music program that had gone away several years ago, and the community, even though they no longer had students in the school, were unhappy that it wasn’t there,” Mayor Bell said. “Our superintendent, Alberto Carvalho, came and with the school board offered to fund a music teacher.
“There’s a saying that there is a relationship between music and educational achievement, and we clearly know that’s true. It’s also about quality of life. We want students who are educated and also happy in their school, and I think that nothing is better to bring that together, and that teamwork and school spirit, than music. This is huge. Thank you so very much.”
Jessica Erskine of StubHub explained why her company, which already has awarded Miami Senior High School $48,000 worth of instruments and South Miami Senior High School nearly $60,000 worth of instruments, does it.
“For us at StubHub music is a big part of our business,” Erskine said. “We’re a secondary ticket marketplace. People can buy and sell tickets to sporting events, concert events, theater, performing arts, so for us it’s really important to give back to the industries that support what we do at a grassroots level, and the public school system and its music programs are really in need of that type of financial support. It’s about supporting the music industry and music education. It’s ensuring the life cycle of musicians.”
For her, seeing the students’ reactions is priceless.
“It’s never the same twice,” she said. “I get chills every time. I wish I could have more of my colleagues see it. I’m lucky to be a part of it.”