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East Bay choir program teaches teens the power of music

East Bay choir program teaches teens the power of music
East Bay choir program teaches teens the power of music 02:45

OAKLAND (KPIX) -- An East Bay man has been using the power of music to lift voices and uplift lives for 35 years.

You can see and hear the joy as students present their spring concert at First Presbyterian Church in Oakland.

Oakland Technical High school sophomore Zico Harrison has been singing for seven years. He says music has been a gift in life's changes and challenges.

"It makes me pretty happy and relaxed. It makes me feel safe," said Harrison.

David Morales is the man behind the piano and the performance. He's founder and artistic director of the Cantare music program.

In fact, Morales originally started the nonprofit in 1987 as an adult chorale. Only later did he expand the programs for school students.

"It's a way to help discover who you are -- find your voice. Which is also a music thing, but also a psychological thing, to find out you have value," Morales said.

Tuition for the adult programs help pay for youth programs that Morales started 23 years ago when music budgets got slashed in local schools.

Today, Cantare works in harmony with the Oakland Unified School District to provide free music instruction and after school choirs.

A few thousand students in 70 classrooms take part, from transitional kindergarten to high school. Students build confidence; their parents build community.

"That's our mission. That's the miracle of life. We're providing an arena for that," Morales said.

The retired Merritt College music professor also takes pride in his award-winning, advanced Nova Youth Choir.

12-year-old member Prathana Pandey learned her voice is a powerful instrument.

"You could be happy, sad, mad, excited, anything. You can feel any emotion and you can express it musically through your voice," Pandey said.

Nova participants also get mentors and field trips to tour colleges.

Morales said all of them graduate from high school; nearly all of them go to college or vocational school.

"You're seeing a kid's eyes open up to a different world than they saw before. That means different dreams, different possibilities, different futures," he explained.

Adult choir member Derrick Wu sees the students' responses firsthand as a volunteer who teaches the youth choirs.

"A lot of joy, these kids, just the way they sing," Wu said.

"I'm moved by it. I'm definitely moved by it, no question about it," Morales said.

That's music to Morales' ears.

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