The Merit School of Music teaches music to inner-city children, giving them an opportunity to express themselves and to see a brighter future.
How it Began — More Than Music Lessons
Duffie Adelson, Merit School of Music Executive Director, says, "We don't just teach music, we teach the whole child. We help each child develop as fully as possible and find his or her own voice in the world."
Every week the Merit School of Music teaches 4,000 children how to play instruments and sing. Music gives these children from rough neighborhoods the opportunity to express themselves in a positive way. One student says, "The kids [in my neighborhood] were into drugs and gangs... they never got to me because of Merit and this instrument."
Duffie says, "Children find a safe haven here, a place where they feel nurtured, where they feel loved, where they feel respected."
Students Become Virtuosos for Life
The sense of discipline practicing music requires can transform a student's performance in school. Duffie says, "You become a different kind of student because of the skills you've learned as a music student... test scores go up when children study music." The performance skills children acquire also strengthen their self-esteem.
Leveling the Playing Field
Central to the Merit School of Music's mission is leveling the playing field for economically disadvantaged children. Most of the children receive their instruction either free or at a very low fee. Duffie says, "No child who is motivated and willing to work hard should be denied the opportunity to go as far as their talents will take them in life."
When the students graduate, their music training opens doors to college and scholarships no matter what major they pursue. Over 95% of the graduating seniors each year go on to college — many with scholarships.
Duffie says, "Children love music because it touches the soul. They fall in love with the sounds a particular instrument makes and it gives them an avenue for expression. That is very powerful."