"When I face a lot of problems during school, high school could be stressful, I always pick up my cello and start playing."
SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (KGO) -- They say that music can change the world because it can change a person. One such group that is bringing music education into the lives of children in San Rafael's Canal neighborhood.
"Music is my life, it's everything to me, I love music," expressed Abi Alvarado who has been playing the oboe since she was seven year-olds. She's now a senior in high school.
"The cello, I really like the way it sounds," adds Michelle Sanchez, also a student.
"I started the program about 13 years ago with 15 students. I saw that the canal neighborhood had not instrumental programs for young children," explained Jane Kramer, the founder and executive director of the music program Enriching Lives Through Music, known as ELM.
The program which started small, now has 150 kids and three orchestras.
Students are given ten hours of music instruction a week, including Saturdays. Most remain in the program for ten years.
"My mother came here in order to give me a better opportunity, the opportunities that she didn't get," said Alvarado.
The program attracts international artists like composer and conductor Giancarlo Castro D'Addona who received his music education through Venezuela's "El Sistema," which uses music education to bring social change in that country.
"Any single kid is able to get into 'El Sistema,' singing, playing violin whatever they want to do and of course it is for free, everything," he said.
ELM has a similar mission. If you had to put a price tag on what this level of music education, it would be close to $7,000 per student, per year.
In addition, the older ones are given high school and college counseling.
"Last year, we had six seniors and all of them are now in a four-year college. This year, we have seven seniors and they have all applied to four year colleges, revealed Kramer.
"When I face a lot of problems during school, high school could be stressful, I always pick up my cello and start playing," said Jackqueline Poroj who started playing when she was seven.
ABC7 news was there as the students were rehearsing a special piece called, 'The Mix of the Culturas," Cultures. It combines the traditional movements of a symphony with Latin-infused rhythms.
"We combined all the Latin rhythms in a symphonic structure and we created this six minute-long piece," explained Castro D'Addona.
The songs they added are from their parents' and grandparents' homeland.
Marian Gutierrez, also from Venezuela's "El Sistema," program helped select the songs.
"As immigrants there is a point in your life when you are in a different country that you feel alone and sometimes the music is your partner, it's your friend," said Gutierrez.
This past weekend, they put into music their love for their culture.
"What I hope for is that they learn the habits of excellence and the opportunity to focus and to form community and to take all of that with them in their lives and transfer it to whatever they want," said Kramer.
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