ALAMEDA - When one Alameda mother discovered that her children's school lacked a thriving music program, she orchestrated her own solution.
For Lorrie Murray, the lively sounds of after school chatter are a prelude to something unforgettable at Maya Lin Elementary. Murray noticed a few years back that something was missing at the Alameda school.
"When my kids were coming here to school, I just saw the arts being underfunded and music not being accessible to many kids, so I wanted to make sure that didn't happen," she explained.
So she founded the Bay Area Music Project in 2014. It gives under-resourced, underserved children intensive music training, academic tutoring, and more, to experience the magic she knew music could bring.
"People found their tribes, people connected to other people through music, whether they were just going to a concert together or performing together. It made sense to me to build a community around music here," Murray said.
Her nonprofit serves about 200 students at 4 Alameda County schools. The biggest program, at Maya Lin Elementary, teaches kindergarteners to fifth graders three hours weekdays afterschool.
Students learn to play a variety of stringed, wind and brass instruments and compose music on a computer.
Lorrie's recruited more than a dozen teaching artists. One of them, Misha Khalikulov, described what makes Murray inspiring.
"Love is the first thing. Love for the kids," Khalikulov said.
And the kids are flourishing, like Cellist Olive Pouncy Benjamin, who's gaining confidence in her playing.
What does she like about music?
"The way that you can express yourself through music," she smiled.
And fellow 5th grader Sage Arroyo-Young learns anything is possible.
He said, "It's powerful because you get to learn and learning is one of those powerful things in the world."
In fact, students got to perform a few years with Yo-Yo Ma at a Salesforce event, and for the famous cellist at a block party. The experiences strike a chord with the students.
"Watching them achieve something they didn't think was possible. That gives me energy and gives me life," said Murray.
So for empowering hundreds of children through the Bay Area Music Project, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Lorrie Murray.
The nonprofit is funded by grants, donations and tuition that runs around $300 a month, but students can get scholarships, and no family is turned away because of finances.
The Bay Area Music Project also operates programs at Encinal Junior and Senior High and Wood Middle School in Alameda, and Life Academy in Oakland.
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