Music for minors helps students make their own

Dorothy Friedenreich beams over the progress of the students at the Music for Minors rehearsal in the garage of her home.

Dorothy Friedenreich beams over the progress of the students at the Music for Minors rehearsal in the garage of her home.

  • What: 5th Annual Bonita Blues Festival
  • Where: Riverside Park
  • Cost: $15 - $20
  • Age limit: All ages

Full event details »

— “Everything.”

“It defines who I am.”

“It is the way — whether you write it or play it — you can show what kind of person you are.”

“This is one way you can speak, so for me it’s a form of communication.”

These are what 12-year-old Julian Lopez, Natalia Gomez, Jose Velez and Kara Duggan say music means to them. Their answers might be less profound if not for an organization called Music for Minors, which gave them their own musical instruments — to keep.

Music for Minors buys instruments — new, when possible; generally used, when necessary — for students who demonstrate the ability and dedication to own them. It has scrounged up money for a cello and found violins, flutes, clarinets and more to help children with musical enthusiasm. The kids must audition, complete an essay and achieve three levels of certification. But then the instrument becomes totally theirs.

The Bonita Blues Charitable Foundation has selected the Music for Minors as a beneficiary of this year’s blues festival (this weekend at Riverside Park; see accompanying box) and the organization, which is always in need for funds to buy instruments, is grateful. So are students like Kara Duggan, who has gone to great lengths to make the grade and hold onto her instrument.

“I went through a time when I suffered with stage fright, but I had to overcome it in order to keep my instrument,” recalled Duggan, a student and orchestra participant at FGCU who has already graduated from the Music for Minors program. “If it wasn’t for Dorothy Friedenreich I don’t know if I’d be in orchestra right now, so I give back by continuing to participate in the program.”

Duggan, a freshman majoring in biology, plans to become a veterinarian and already knows exactly what she wants out of life. She credits a lot of her forward-thinking plans with the discipline of participating in music.

“I would like to have my own veterinarian clinic with an emergency section, rehab, clinic and long-term care facility,” she said. “Music is hard, but you can’t give up — music is always there to fall back on.”

A rehearsal last week in Friedenreich’s garage was like being dropped into the middle of “Mr. Holland’s Opus.” The cast was strikingly similar, starring dedicated teachers, a gaggle of enthusiastic students and benevolent supporters who connect the dots. In the real-life, Naples version of the film, the moral of the story is also similar: Music can build a path to success.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the group’s director, professional saxophone player Don Rhynard, principal saxophonist with the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra. Rhynard has played for celebrities such as Wayne Newton, Bernadette Peters, Martha Reeves, Connie Francis and Ben Vereen. Rhynard says his own career ‘clicked” when he was able to study saxophone with an assistant band director who gave him lessons at a discount.

“Sometimes all it takes is for someone to give you that edge for you to change your life, some kind of opportunity, whether it’s giving a student a horn because they don’t have the money or the support they need to succeed,” said Rhynard. “Even if you don’t become a professional musician, music enriches your education involves math, science, foreign language and even social skills.”

Others Music for Minors teachers include Naples native Aurora Wells, who arranges some of the music specifically for the students.

“To be able to write some arrangements was attractive to me,” explained Wells, who plays both stand-up and electric bass. “You can’t order music for a group that is this diverse in talent and experience.”

For 12-year-old saxophone player Julian Lopez, math is a high priority. He wants to be an attorney and is focused on his studies. Music is one of the tools he uses to keep his grades up.

“Playing the saxophone has opened my eyes to everything, but it really helps me with math,” said Lopez, who was renting a saxophone until a caring band teacher told him about Music for Minors. “When you count music, you have to be able to add and subtract and you have to do it quickly.”

For other students like Natalia Gomez, having a musical instrument is all about life lessons and building character.

“Through my instrument, I can express myself and when I don’t feel good, I play my clarinet and it brings up my self-esteem,” said Gomez. She says she’s overwhelmed with gratitude to Friedenreich for founding the musical group and the teachers who provide instruction on their own time.

“They are very kind because it’s very cool of them to give us kids the opportunity to play an instrument. That they would take an interest in our lives and how they care for others — I am grateful for that.”

For students like 14-year-old Jose Velez, music is all about expression and doing something productive with his life.

“I like playing my trumpet because it’s peaceful, it helps you express yourself and gives you something positive when you don’t have anything to do,” said Velez, who has a message for other kids. “If music is something you think you’d enjoy, embrace that — it opens so many doors and helps you get further in life.”

There are other Music for Minors organizations around the country. The Southwest Florida one was founded in 2004 by Dorothy Friedenreich, of Bonita Springs, whose own son played the trumpet throughout his life. Friedenreich says that when she realized how much her son’s music had brought to his life and theirs, she determined to help other children have the same opportunity.

“It’s a thrill to see these kids progressing, and I follow them throughout the years so I can try to help them get into college,” said Friedenreich. Sometimes that’s literally. Friedenreich has taken students tours of FGCU, which opened its state-of-the-art Bower School of Music last September.

Rhynard says one of the best things Music for Minors does is give children an option.

“Instead of looking at life as having to work at McDonald’s, providing an instrument to a child who has the initiative, will work hard and get a scholarship for college — (it) changes their life.”

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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