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Everyday Heroes: Dantes Rameau

Atlanta Music Project

The seeds for Dantes Rameau’s passion to use music as a springboard for underserved children traces back to his graduate studies at Yale University’s School of Music.

He taught music theory to public school students in New Haven, CT and was surprised when some children couldn’t bring themselves to believe that a person of color could be enrolled at Yale.

“I worked with amazing students in New Haven who were capable and had all the potential in the world, but I don’t know if they knew it,” says Rameau. “The only difference between them and me was the environment in which we were raised. I believe that with the right environment and support, kids will flourish, and it did not feel good to see the discrepancy in opportunities and possibilities.”

Credit: Photo Courtesy of Dantes Rameau

Credit: Photo Courtesy of Dantes Rameau

Rameau grew up in Canada, the only child of parents from Haiti and Cameroon, and he was exposed to a mixed stew of music growing up: classical and jazz, hip hop and Kompa from Haiti and other rhythms from the African diaspora. His parents’ commitment to their son’s intellectual and artistic development was unlimited, and Rameau wanted to pass along that commitment to others.

When he co-founded the Atlanta Music Project in 2010, he didn’t frame the organization as a music education program so much as a social justice entity to close the gap in music education between the haves and have-nots. The project has become especially important as public schools scale back or eliminate music education programs. A 2008 National Endowment for the Arts report revealed that Black and Latino students had less than half the access to arts education as their White peers.

The project had humble beginnings. Its first program consisted of five-day-a-week, after school band and orchestra classes at the historic Jeremiah S. Gilbert House.

Today, the Atlanta Music Project serves 300 children each year. The organization moved into a spacious new headquarters in the Capitol View neighborhood in 2019. It has a college scholarship program for its alumni, and received a MacKenzie Scott grant in 2021.

Atlanta Music Project is tuition-free for its students, so long as the students commit to attending all classes. The organization provides musical instruments, class materials, teaching artists and performance opportunities.

“The meat and potatoes of the Atlanta Music Project will always be music,” Rameau says. “But while we have the time and trust of our students and families, we feel there are skills we can embed to get kids to think of themselves as college material, prepare them for the rigors of higher education and help them overcome financial barriers.”

He believes the students of the Atlanta Music Project have the power to change entire neighborhoods by example.

“Our best students have become role models in their neighborhoods,” says Rameau. “As a result, grade-schoolers no longer need to see the Atlanta Symphony to understand what is possible. In fact, the ASO may not do anything for them. But Donovan, Olivia and Nyasjah who live down the street and play the violin, double bass and viola really, really well are the community’s most valuable assets. As they go, so goes the Atlanta Music Project.”

HOW TO HELP

For more information, please visit https://www.atlantamusicproject.org/.

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WE’RE STRONGER TOGETHER: A SPECIAL PROJECT

This place we call home is filled with ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary feats. Their selfless acts make this region so special – and they bring out the best in all of us. With the holidays upon us, we wanted to share their inspiring stories, celebrate their accomplishments, and offer ways that you can help.

Just as the 55 people we’re profiling can’t do it alone, nor can we. That’s why we worked closely with our partners to bring you this collection of uplifting stories.

We hope they leave you feeling inspired and ready to tackle the busy new year that lies ahead.

We hope they make you feel more connected to your community or to your neighbors.

And maybe, just maybe, they will motivate you to come up with your own small way to make a big difference in the lives of others.

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