CHICAGO (CBS) — Just off the Dan Ryan Freeway, near 92nd Street, you’ll hear sweet sounds: maybe a tune, a violin concerto, or a jazz riff. It all comes from talented students at a school that enriches its South Side community.
Michael Manson was pursuing his career in music when he had an “aha” moment teaching a music lesson to kids on the South Side.
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“I was like, ‘These kids are incredibly talented,'” Manson added. “The only thing they need is resources and a place, culturally, that can excel.”
Manson did. He and his fellow musician and wife, Lana, decided to start a school, the Musical Arts Institute.
Now nearly ten years old, MAI has educated thousands of young musicians in Chicago’s Princeton Park neighborhood and beyond.
“Now the Institute of Musical Arts sends music teachers, music instructors, instruments, time and energy to provide music in some of the CPS schools,” Manson said.
The school teaches a variety of musical genres.
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Student Neema Morris, 18, studies classical music; instruction not offered at his secondary school.
“In the past, I didn’t have much experience in the classical field. Mainly, I did gospel music, playing in my church; and classical was a really good way for me to develop technique,” she said. “I think a great thing with classical is that it’s very easy to express your musicality throughout the piece in your own way.”
“In our community, we feed a lot on hip hop, and there’s nothing wrong with hip hop, I love hip hop; but there is more,” Manson said. “My feeling is that kids should be exposed to all types of musical genres, and you never know what’s going to stick.”
Studies have shown that teaching music improves a child’s overall education. MAI board member Justice Sharon Johnson says the school does this in a framework that shows students they are supported; beginners and experienced musicians.
“When you go to this school, it’s like a family there. They welcome you, there’s no pretension there, and just lots of opportunity,” she said.
“Send your kids, and if you can’t send your kids, send a check,” Manson said.
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The Institute of Musical Arts helps students who cannot afford tuition. Sunday evening at 6 p.m., the school will host its annual “Christmas Cantata” at the DuSable Museum of African American History. Proceeds support the school.