Atlanta Music Project students have big dreams

The Jeremiah S. Gilbert House is easy to pass in southwest Atlanta. The home sits tucked away, off the street behind a field of trees. In late afternoon, sounds from the house fill the surrounding community with the music of classical composers such as Larry Clark, Ludwig van Beethoven and Henry Purcell from students of the Atlanta Music Project.

The students come to the Gilbert house every day after school to learn a string instrument and play in an orchestra with their peers. What used to be the living room of the Gilbert house is now filled with 30 kindergarten to 9th grade students, each with a violin, viola, cello, or double bass in hand; their faces focused on the sheet music in front of them.

Dantes Rameau created the Atlanta Music Project four years ago, inspired by studies that have shown students in music programs produce high math and reading test scores. They're also less likely to have discipline issues.

The Atlanta Music Project is broken into three divisions: the Gilbert House String Orchestra, AMPlify (for American Music Project) Choir and South Bend Wind Ensemble, located at the nearby South Bend Recreation Center.

More immediately, the student are putting the finishing touches on the program for Saturday’s spring concert.

The concert brings together students from each of the Atlanta Music Project’s divisions to perform a range of classical compositions.

The Atlanta Music Project has served Atlanta school students since 2010 by providing a free after-school program that gives them the chance to learn music. Rameau believes this is a way for students to dream big, become more confident and stay in school.

“I want to be a violinist, cartoonist and a scientist,” said Donovan Fuller, 10, who has played the violin with the Atlanta Music Project for four years. Fuller has dreams of going to Georgia Tech and getting his master’s degree in arts and computer science.

Nyasjah Brooks, 12, plays the viola and has also been with the Atlanta Music Project for 4 years.

“I want to go to Harvard and become a medical examiner,” she said.

Alivia Carter, 12, has been with the Atlanta Music Project for 2 years playing the double bass and already she has dreams of going to Spelman and becoming a professional double bass player, along with becoming a pilot.

Students of the Atlanta Music Project have been able to visit and play in a number of places locally, including Chick-Fil-A headquarters, Woodruff Arts Center and the W Hotel. These opportunities make the students feel “famous,” they said collectively.

Shasheed Muhammad enrolled his son, Rasheed, 8, into the program two years ago after being unsatisfied with his son’s after-school program.

“It was more play than work, I was interested in work and less play,” said Muhammad. His son started the program playing the violin but has since moved on to the viola. Muhammad applauds Rameau for all his dedication to the program.

“Being a single parent, you couldn’t find a better person to do this, it is not easy and he relates to the students well,” Muhammad said.

Saturday’s concert will be hosted by “The Walking Dead” star Lauren Cohan, who plays the role of Maggie Greene on the Georgia-filmed show.

“It is very exiting what music can do for these students and how it can influence everything we do,” Cohan said.

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