Students from across the Chicago public school district in the Little Kids Rock music program rocked away Wednesday morning in a concert at the John Spry school auditorium that showcased their musical skills in the annual Chicago City Jam Summit.
Mari Cruz Herrera plays concert viola but Wednesday she commanded the stage with her singing.
"It was a great experience learning the work and the songs," said Herrera. "For me it is like home because I am free to do what I want to do through music."
"In school I do good, but I cannot express myself," said 13-year-old student-guitarist Alfredo Garcia. "The guitar helps me to do it."
Little Kids Rock is a national non-profit that provides free music classes and musical instruments to children in public schools and instructs teachers to run contemporary music rock 'n' roll programs.
Twelve-year-old drummer Marcos Cortez says drumming is his life.
"It helps us get recognized during classes and encourages us to play more music," said Cortez.
More than 8,500 students from across Chicago benefit from Little Kids Rock.
Program ambassador Bernardo Medina says the program transforms children's lives
"There are 59 teachers that have this program, and what they do is get it into the school where music has been cut," said Medina.
Not only do major music stars support Little Kids Rock, so do private individuals such as Dick Hoffman and his two sons, who donated $10,000 in the memory of their late wife and mother Kathy Hoffman
"Music can fulfill your life and give you the self-esteem you need in life," said Dick Hoffman.
Budget cuts have stripped many public schools of their music programs. These cutbacks have had a disproportionately large impact on children from low-income backgrounds.
Many believe that the Little Kids Rock program restores music to its rightful place in children's academic lives.
As Medina said, children who know the joys of expressing themselves creatively are more likely to stay in school and less likely to channel their energy into destructive outlets.
For more information about the program, or to make donations, visit littlekidsrock.org.