CHICAGO (CBS) — Right off the Dan Ryan Expressway, near 92nd Street, you’ll hear some sweet sounds: perhaps an aria or a violin concerto or a jazz riff. It all comes from talented students at a school that enriches its South Side community.
Michael Manson was pursuing his career in music when he had an “aha” moment while teaching a music class to kids on the South Side.
“I was like, ‘These kids are unbelievably talented,’” Manson added. “The only thing that they need is resources, and a place, culturally, that can excel.”
Manson made it happen. He and his fellow musician and wife, Lana, decided to start a school, the Musical Arts Institute.
Now nearly a decade old, MAI has trained thousands of young musicians in Chicago’s Princeton Park neighborhood and beyond.
“Now the Musical Arts Institute sends music teachers, and music instructors, and instruments, and time, and energy to provide music in some of the CPS schools,” Manson said.
The school teaches a variety of musical genres.
Student Neema Morris, 18, studies classical music; instruction not offered at her high school.
“In the past, I haven’t had much experience in the classical realm. Primarily, I did gospel music, performing at my church; and classical was really a nice way for me to develop technique,” she said. “I think a big thing with classical is that it’s very easy to express your musicality throughout the piece in your own way.”
“In our community, we’re fed a lot of hip hop, and there is nothing wrong with hip hop, I love hip hop; but there’s more,” Manson said. “My feeling is the kids should be exposed to all types of music genres, and you never know what’s going to stick.”
Studies have shown that music instruction enhances a child’s overall education. MAI board member, Judge Sharon Johnson, says the school does that in a setting that shows the students they’re supported; beginners and experienced musicians alike.
“When you go to that school, it’s like a family there. They greet you, there’s no pretense there, and just plenty of opportunity,” she said.
“Send your kids, and if you can’t send your kids, send a check,” Manson said.
The Musical Arts Institute helps students who cannot afford the tuition. Sunday night at 6 p.m., the school will host its annual “Christmas Cantata” at the DuSable Museum of African American History. Proceeds support the school.