Where there’s music, there’s hope

Study finds music helps improve the lives of at-risk youth

As funding dwindles for arts education nationally, non-profit organizations such as Miami Music Project (MMP) are swooping in to help the hardest hit communities with after-school programming using music as an instrument to empower children.

Since launching in 2008, MMP has grown into one of the largest programs of its kind in the U.S. with chapters across Miami-Dade County in locations such as Little Havana, West Dade/ Doral, Little Haiti and Liberty City.

To validate MMP’s impact, researchers from FIU-BRIDGE at FIU’s Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work conducted a three-year longitudinal study with support from The Ware Foundation.

The key findings of Project TREBLE (Testing Resilience in an Ensemble-Based Learning Environment) point to remarkable improvements among youth in the most impoverished and underserved South Florida neighborhoods. The study confirms that MMP is enhancing the lives of students on many levels, including the five Cs of positive youth development (character, confidence, competence, caring, and connection); better psychological adjustment; and improved working memory. Additionally, parents report more positive relationships with their children.

Inspired by the 40-year-old El Sistema philosophy from Venezuela, MMP’s free, multiyear musical education programming brings students together through a rigorous ensemble model for instruction. Participants attend music classes after the regular school day, three to five days a week for up to 10 hours, to practice in their respective formats (i.e., orchestra, large ensembles, small ensembles, sectional rehearsals, choir, and private lessons).

The ensemble-based instruction provides the main social component of the program, wherein the orchestra serves as a microcosm of society. Students of different cultural backgrounds come together to create music, while their families support their talents and efforts.

Project TREBLE represents the first comprehensive longitudinal evaluation of an El Sistema-inspired program in the U.S. The final report is available now, and a longer manuscript is slated for print in peer-reviewed journals later this year.

Nearly 500 students from the Miami Music Project will come together for the “Fantastic Season Finale” on Saturday, May 27, 2017 at FIU’s Wertheim Performing Arts Center on 10910 SW 17th Street. Free and open to the public, there will be a show at 1 p.m. for the beginner level ensembles as well as a show at 7 p.m. for the intermediate and advanced level ensembles.