Student turns school’s struggles into success with concert

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It’s become an all-too familiar story these days – of lawmakers in Tallahassee slashing funding for the arts.

For several consecutive years Florida State legislators have been decimating the budget of Florida’s Division of Cultural Affairs (DCA), an organization also known as the “state arts agency.”

A key financier of public school art programs, DCA has seen its budget shrink to $50 million in 2016, to $33 million in 2017.

And this year, Florida Governor Rick Scott is leading the charge on yet another massive cut to the program, by recommending just $8.65 million in funding for the program. For context, that number represents .00009 percent of Scott’s record-breaking $87 billion budget proposal for next fiscal year.

While these numbers may seem abstract on paper, they are a harsh reality for Palmetto Middle School located in Pinecrest. Last year, the school’s music program had a difficult time finding money to repair instruments, many of which had been severely damaged by mold.

Grappling with the issue, Palmetto Middle turned to a start-up entrepreneur and artist who had an idea – Daniel Soloman, a 13-year-old student sitting right there in one of the school’s 7th grade classrooms.

“I thought to myself, ‘how could I help my music program? This is my family, how can I help them?’” Recounts Soloman, “And so I decided to have a fundraising concert here at Pinecrest Gardens.”

Naming it “Music at the Gardens,” Soloman didn’t believe the concert would raise much money, maybe just enough to fund some repairs. But to his amazement, community members showed up in droves to watch Soloman and other middle school musicians perform at the Banyan Bowl.

“We had such a great turnout that we were able to raise $2,000, all for the music program. It just made me feel very good that I was able to do this for my orchestra,” he added.

Fast-forward several months, the 14-year-old violin concertmaster is now looking to catch lightning in a bottle for a second time. Soloman is now hard at work planning the next Music in the Gardens event, and his vision for the program has grown even more bold.

“I thought to myself ‘how can I make this concert even better?’ So I said ‘what if we include drama, dance, band, orchestra, and even art?’”

The concert will feature 180 art students, something Soloman says has never been done at Palmetto Middle. While Soloman didn’t want to give too much of the show away, he teased that performances will feature sounds ranging from traditional solo to Michael Jackson and Journey.

“This is a concert where musicians will be playing music they hear on the radio. Music that people listen to for pleasure – not a Bach symphony.”

The evening will also include a solo performance by Dr. Nathan Mensink, an accomplished Saxophone performer who also serves as the Band Director at Palmetto Middle. Dr. Mansink has only glowing words for Daniel, calling him a meticulous planner and fantastic violinist.

“I’m very impressed with the effort he is putting this endeavor, particularly as an 8th grader who will be moving on from palmetto Middle School… That is the kind of person Daniel is.”

Beyind the field of music, Soloman also proudly impacts his community through volunteer work with Friendship Circle Miami and with the Village of Pinecrest Youth Advisory Council.

As for future plans, Soloman hasn’t decided which career he wants to pursue, but he doesn’t believe it will be music. While he may still have a lot of thinking to do, Soloman says he’s definitely enjoying Mrs. Ortiz’s 8th grade biology class.

For now, this virtuoso is focused on making Music at the Gardens the biggest success it can be. To support the program, patrns can watch Soloman perform, serve as mater of cereminies, and produce the show on April 18, 7 p.m. at Pinecrest Gardens. Tickets will be $10 each, with all proceeds going to the Palmetto Middle School music program.

For information, visit or call Pinecrest Gardens at 305-669-6990.

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