Despite pandemic, Rickards’ music students continue to jam
Oakland Park – Sheyla Torres has a passion for music and hopes to translate that into a musical career one day.
But the coronavirus deprived Torres, an eighth grader at James Rickards Middle School, with the opportunity to pursue the part of her passion that included playing with her fellow band members.
“I want to play my heart out and I miss playing with other people,” said Torres, who hopes to be part of the marching band at Northeast High School next year.
Fortunately, an opportunity to continue practicing has presented itself.
Torres is among 35 Rickards music students receiving instruction and practice virtually through the new “Let the Music Play On” program.
Once a week, each student receives a 45-minute virtual lesson with an instructor from School of Rock in Boca Raton. They can interact with the instructor and receive tips on how to improve their skills. There is also a weekly Zoom meeting and a School of Rock Virtual Open Mic Night.
Safe Schools for Alex, created in honor of Alex Schachter, one of the students murdered during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, partnered with School of Rock to create “Let the Music Play On.”
It was founded by Alex’s father, Max Schachter.
“The organization’s goal is to foster a love of music while having a positive effect on each of the students, just as it did for Alex,” said Schachter.
Rickards seventh grader Valeria Valera plays trombone and guitar and said the program’s teachers do their jobs effectively and with care.
“Music can lift your spirit and reach into the darkest places of your soul. Music helps you make better choices,” said Valera. “It is like therapy.”
Darek Bloch, general manager of School of Rock, also talked about the power of music, including the power to motivate and instill confidence.
Dr. Washington Collado, principal at Rickards, is a strong believer in music education and said
“Let the Music Play On” should be duplicated in other schools. “Other students would be lucky to have this opportunity,” he said.
Summer McClendon teaches band and piano at Rickards and is ecstatic about the program.
“It is a huge honor to be a part of the pilot program . . . the kids are practicing and improving,” she said. “The one-on-one attention is providing them motivation above and beyond what we can provide during regular school.”