By Julia Turner

The Atlanta Music Project, now in its second year, is having major success in spurring social change in Atlanta’s underserved neighborhoods. The project operates as an after school music program for kids in grades 1-8 that exposes students to a variety of instruments and offers quality music training from classically trained teaching assistants. The overall goal of the program is much more than creating young musicians, however.

By redirecting students’ focus on a productive and disciplined activity, AMP aims to instill important life behaviors in the kids going through the program. Dedication and committed practice to learning an instrument are expected to carry over into other aspects of the children’s lives, and from the results the pilot program has seen, the plan is working.

In its first year, AMP operated out of the Gilbert House, a cultural recreation center in southwest Atlanta. The musical after school activities were soon widely known in the neighborhood.

“Word got out because parents noticed changes in the children’s behavior,” says Jen Farris, AMP public relations officer. “Their self-esteem and confidence have boosted.” Students who came in with hesitancy and downcast eyes now play in public concerts with assurance.

The program is the result of efforts by Dantes Rameau, a Canadian musician living in Atlanta and former recipient of the Abreu Fellowship. Rameau studied at Yale and Carnegie Melon. After completing his studies, he wanted to use his music to promote a positive influence in the world.

His opportunity came in the form of the fellowship, named for Jose Antonio Abreu, a Venezuelan conductor and politician who started a network of youth orchestras in Venezuela known as El Sistema. Recipients of the fellowship spend a year studying between Boston and Caracas, learning about the mission and practice of El Sistema. After completing the Abreu Fellowship, Rameau used his knowledge of the Venezuela program to start AMP in Atlanta.

Rameau’s timing was perfect, bringing the project to Atlanta just after Mayor Kasim Reed came into office with his Centers of Hope campaign. AMP immediately received support from the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs, partnering with them to bring some of the underused neighborhood recreation centers back to life.

After receiving funding from the Zeist foundation, the Atlanta Music Project has opened a new location in the Edgewood neighborhood at the Coan Recreation Center.

More information about the program and opportunities for volunteering and donations can be found at atlantamusicproject.org.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.