Band academy in low-income community gives free lessons to students in Phoenix
PHOENIX — A band academy in the middle of one of Phoenix’s lowest-income communities is giving students a chance to get the same music lessons they would get from a private instructor, except the lessons here are free.
The Isaac School District Band Academy, which operates out of the Isaac Middle School campus, runs on Saturdays and has anywhere from 80 to 100 middle school students with instruments in hand. They’re practicing scales or working on tone and technique in a small classroom setting.
Alvaro Flores, a 14-year-old who has been playing the flute for three years, said he goes to the band academy to improve his skills.
“We learn about intonation, tone quality, things like that,” he said. “We also learn about small details to music that affects the whole song or the whole performance.”
Colleen Bosselli, band director at Isaac Middle School, and a colleague came up with the idea for the band academy last year. They were on their way back from a summer band camp at Mesa Community College.
“We thought let’s have a program where our students can come to school on a Saturday and receive private instruction from professional musicians that range from middle school band directors, high school band directors, retired band directors and also collegiate band directors from our local colleges around here in the Valley,” Bosselli said.
With the support and funding from the Isaac School District No. 5, the band academy was formed and opened its doors to students last fall.
Bosselli said students from all over the Isaac School District are benefiting from the band academy. The vast majority of them are Hispanic and come from economically disadvantaged families.
Aldie Lopez, a music instructor at the band academy, said he can relate to many of his students. He grew up in a low-income community in a rough part of Las Vegas.
“That was the reality I grew up in,” Lopez said. “So for me, giving back to the community that is very similar to where I grew up is hugely important.”
Not only are students learning how to play instruments, they’re learning important life skills that’ll help them long after they leave the rehearsal room. Plus, the band academy is helping students like Sbeydi Ponce, explore future careers. The 14-year-old said she’d like to become a music teacher one day.
“Music is my life for me, and I think others should experience what it is to play music in front of all their friends and family,” she said.