Eddie Cerritos discovered a love for music that’s changing his life. Cerritos started playing the saxophone when he was a freshman in high school, and joined Harmony Project KC a month later. He’s now entering his junior year of high school, and hopes to become a music teacher in the future.
He’s inspired by the way music influences everyone around him.
Liz Snow, Music Therapy & Impact Manager for the nonprofit Harmony Project KC, elaborated that, “Harmony Project offers free music instruction to primarily residents in the Northeast Kansas City area.”
This is done on their campus at the Northeast Community Center, 544 Wabash Ave., and teachers also go to select Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) they’re partnered with.
“It’s a very new and fun environment to be in,” Cerritos expressed.
Cerritos described his progress since joining the Harmony Project. He shared that he has improved on playing scales. Beyond instruction, students perform a concert each semester. Cerritos described his most recent performance at the Folly Theater, where he played louder and more confidently with the saxophone quartet than in previous performances.
Harmony Project KC has music classes and ensembles for a range of skill levels and ages, with students as young as seven through high school. Cerritos intends to continue participating in the Harmony Project until graduation.
Cerritos finds music, “relaxing and challenging at the same time.” He plays in the wind ensemble and saxophone quartet, receiving instruction on two weekdays and Saturday mornings. This adds up to five hours a week, with the opportunity to do an hour of private lessons, and other additional classes. At the end of each year, he completes a music assessment.
“The teachers know how to give us a challenge,” Cerritos said. “They know how to give us some breaks.”
This balance keeps students improving and motivated.
This group of individuals are from diverse backgrounds. Flags hanging in the building represent each culture, based on the nation of origin reported by the parents.
“I think we have 50 flags that are represented through our teachers and student body,” Snow shared.
Harmony Project supports these students beyond making music. Snow described their Path to College program, which includes workshops, college visits, and one-on-one meetings with the Hispanic Development Fund. Scholarships are also an integral part of this.
“Last year we had all of our kids graduate almost tuition-free and got accepted into many, many colleges,” Snow said.
Care services and other support are also available through the Northeast Community Center, and it’s evident to students that Harmony Project KC has a supportive atmosphere.
“The thing I like about being here is how friendly everyone is,” Cerritos said. “It’s definitely one of the safest places I’ve been.”
Harmony Project KC cultivates this positive environment by sending surveys each semester to parents, students and teachers. The organization reaches about 300 kids and currently has a waiting list, accessible on the Harmony Project KC website, necc-kc.org. Students, including Cerritos, are able to take their instrument home for the semester to practice.
Snow believes in the impact of music.
“I think music is a powerful tool and a catalyst for change and growth,” she shared.
Music has gifted Cerritos and his fellow students with a community, passion, mentors, support and a career.
“Music is my place to go,” Cerritos shared. “It’s awesome.”