As a music teacher at Arch Creek Elementary School in North Miami, Jimmy Michel witnessed firsthand the needy children who weren’t able to pay for music lessons outside of school. Over his 11 years as a music teacher, the Florida Memorial University graduate met talented children whose parents couldn’t afford to pay $50 or more for hourlong lessons. Even middle-class families, he found, believed that music lessons were a significant expense.
These conversations gave Michel the idea nearly a decade ago to create a nonprofit organization that offers children music lessons at affordable prices. Jimmy presented his idea to his wife, Hermane, as well as a music-teacher colleague, Jake Stricker. After recruiting more teachers, they launched Music 4 Young Voices, starting with 20 students.
They met at Markee Music, a studio in Deerfield Beach, until about three years ago, when they acquired their own space at 1395 Lyons Road. Through word of mouth, they’ve grown to almost 100 children—not only from Broward but also from Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties.
After a one-time registration fee of $25, families pay $25 for one hourlong class, which can be split into two half-hour classes per week. Michel, who is director of the organization, and five other instructors teach piano, violin, trumpet, flute, drums, guitar and voice to youngsters and teens ages 5 to 17.
“We focus on children because we feel that they need that chance—they cannot afford [lessons], but we provide [them],” says Michel, who’s lived in Coconut Creek for 11 years. “We feel that, who knows? Maybe music is what’s going to open the door to bigger things for them.”
Besides the individual and group music lessons, the organization holds two annual recitals to show off the students’ talents. This fall, it will start a community choir with current students and open it to community children. It also plans to start an orchestra and form ensembles. Other goals include earning grants, attracting sponsors and publishing music instruction books with overarching stories that keep students engaged in lessons.
Music 4 Young Voices already boasts two alumni who started lessons as young teens and are now studying music in college. Michel says it feels great to see them start music careers, and also enjoys seeing the positive effects of music education on other students, including those with special needs. He sees children’s attitudes change and says lessons make them happier and improve their self-esteem.
“They feel like they’re doing something positive. They want to be part of something special,” Michel says. “They come from different cities and yet when they meet and play together, they develop friendships. … It makes us feel good that we’re making a difference in those kids’ lives.”
Fall registration runs Aug. 7-18 and classes begin Aug. 21. Classes are held Monday through Friday, 3-9 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. For information on classes, teaching and volunteer opportunities, visit music4youngvoices.com or call 954.974.8068 or [email protected].