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Marin Musician Shares His Time And Talent With Kids

SAN RAFAEL (KPIX 5) -- A North Bay musician fills his calendar with work for his own band and producing music for top recording artists. But this week's Jefferson Award winner still makes time to share his art with local kids.

Narada Michael Walden has worked with some of the greatest artists of all time, including Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin. He's won countless awards, including an Emmy and a Grammy for Album of the Year.

"I've always loved music," he explained. "It's my passion and I know the world loves music and children need music."

So when he's not working with the professionals, he devotes his time to local kids who share his passion for music, hosting them at his San Rafael studio for lessons, production workshops, and performance rehearsals.

"We call him our Godfather," said Felicia Gaston with a smile.

Gaston is the Executive Director of Performing Stars of Marin. Walden came to her 18 years ago, offering to help foster the musical talent of low-income kids in the county.

"Not only to give them their vocal training, but also the chance to perform with a lot of professional musicians -- that's an opportunity that you can't even pay for!" Gaston said.

Kids come to Walden's studio anywhere from once a week to almost every day depending on whether they have a performance coming up. It's the same studio where music legends like Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Barbra Streisand came to work on their albums.

"One thing I've learned from working with Aretha Franklin, from working with Whitney Houston. working with those great talents is how confident they are," Walden said. "So I am trying to instill that in these kids: love the sound that's coming out of you, love what you do and it shows."

"It was great working with Narada," said student Ayannah Green. "He's always smiling, always keeping me smiling and performing. It was like a party on stage -- everyone was dancing and singing along."

The musician created the Narada Michael Walden Foundation to provide these hands-on music education programs run by volunteers and scholarships to send teenaged students to Academy of Art University.

"When you give a person real love, real care… they start going, 'Wait a minute, I am good at something, I do have something here,' and that real soul comes out," Walden added.

So for helping kids in Marin County find their voices through music, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Narada Michael Walden.

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