Chicago West Community Music Center exposes students to wide range of genres

CHICAGO (WLS) -- ABC7 is celebrating the achievements of local African-Americans during Black History Month, including a visionary who is inspiring a new generation of musicians on the city's West Side.

In this age of auto-tuned vocals and computer generated beats, true vocal styling and hands-on instrumentation may seem like lost arts, but one man is making certain some local youth experience the difference.

Whether training vocalists to sound silky smooth or coaxing the smallest fingers to pull the right strings, Howard Sandifer is living his dream. In 1999, he and his wife, Darlene, co-founded the non-profit now known as the Chicago West Community Music Center.

"We called ourselves a music conservatory without walls," Sandifer said.

After a career in theater, he watched as music programs were being cut in schools and lamented that there were no opportunities for students to learn the fundamentals in his North Lawndale neighborhood.

"We wanted to provide all styles of music and not only the styles of music, but we want to make sure that we bring really high quality instruction as well," Sandifer said.

Now, through on-site instruction at the Golden Dome Field House in East Garfield Park and outreach in Chicago Public Schools, roughly 900 students are impacted each year.

"I never thought I'd be singing at the Navy Pier's gala in their ballroom or the Thanksgiving Day Parade or things like that so I find that I love when people give especially young children the opportunity to go outside of the box," said 17-year-old Tresury Blake-Marlow.

They teach the Suzuki method of violin and have a partnership with Berklee College of Music in Boston. Organizers work to expose students to all genres of music, hoping students are not limited by their surroundings or stereotypes.

"People probably think I'm a gangbanger," 18-year-old Dakari Waddell said. "If I'm listening to headphones they'd probably think I'm listening to rap music, but I'm really listening to the Beatles or something like that."

Students from the Chicago West Community Music Center will be performing at the Goodman Theatre soon as part of series showcasing the works of August Wilson.

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