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Massachusetts teacher honors late mother by helping children learn, play, and grow through music

Brockton teacher carrying on mother's legacy by helping children access music
Brockton teacher carrying on mother's legacy by helping children access music 02:26

BROCKTON - One Massachusetts man is on a mission to change the lives of underserved children through music. 

That man is Greg Fernandes of Brockton.

"We make certain that each child sees their differences as gifts," he said.

He opened the Rose Conservatory in 2021 in honor of his late mother, Roseanna, with just five students. After she died, he went to college at 33-years-old to become a music teacher. 

He believed it was his calling to reach children through music just as his mom once did as a music teacher for over 30 years. 

"I always tell my students most people have Batman, Superman, my Mom was really my superhero. When I think of the word 'music it is parallel with the word 'mom.' I knew from a very young age that's exactly what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be like," Fernandes said. 

His mom started him on piano and violin lessons when he was three.

"Music has been part of my soul as far back as I can remember," he explained. But it wasn't an easy path for him growing up in Brockton.

"I wish I had a place like this when I was a kid. I was bullied. I was assaulted. Just for carrying my violin through the halls of Brockton High School," he said. 

He said when he was growing up, there were no violin programs in Brockton so his mom would drive him 40 minutes for his lessons. 

He's now created an environment where students are proud to play. "You see them walking around with their cases held high, heads held high, chests out, proud to play the violin." 

Students at the Rose Conservatory learn six instruments. Fernandes told WBZ that Rose Conservatory is the only place that offers what he does in Brockton for kids in grades K-5. His goal is to get the students plaing as many instruments as possible. 

It's only $30 a day for children to attend the conservatory, but he says they've never turned a family away. The conservatory is everything to Fernandes, and he said its the embodiment of everything his mom stood for.

"I can see her smiling now. Everything around here that I do I'm constantly thinking what would Mom think, what would Mom do," he said. 

Fernandes said he can relate to what Brockton kids are experiencing right now. He believes the uptick in student violence at schools is from lack of investment. 

"Creative spaces are being diminished throughout the schools. The arts always suffer the most. Resources continue to be taken away from our kids in this city and that's why you see the anger, the hurting. They're reaching out for help."

"Brockton High is a result of what you get when you take from our young people. Our students are in crisis and they're showing us exactly what happens when children are in crisis. You can't keep taking and not filling it back up," he said. 

He sees Rose Conservatory as a resource to fill the cup back up. 

His goal is to get enough support to make the program free for all children. They now have 50 students. He hopes to add diversity to Brockton's music program, so it looks different from when he was growing up. 

"Every situation that I found myself in as a kid, I was the only person who looked like me," he said. 

At Rose Conservatory they are adamant about academic and behavioral success. Their head of academic support is always in contact with their student's teachers to make sure they're succeeding in the classroom as well. 

"To honor black history, we value our young people as our ancestors did, we support them as our ancestors did" Fernandes said. 

They're always searching for grant opportunities and community donations to support the Conservatory in its mission to make music accessible and create a safe space for children to express themselves. 

"We need to invest in our homegrown programs that are able to create relationships with our families, students, and teachers and bring all of those things together. That is the only way we can support our kids," Fernandes explained. 

He said by the fall they'll have Brockton's first youth orchestra. 

"We have proven to ourselves that if we build it, they will come," he said. 

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