“I love music," Gracie Penalo smiled. "It’s one of the puzzle pieces to my heart.”
Pieces that fit together perfectly when Gracie Penalo plays the violin.
“When I play my instrument, I just keep going and I don’t stop,” she said.
A passion and talent she may never have discovered on her own...
“Oh my god, it was amazing," Sylvia Penalo, mother, remembered. "When she first came home with the application, she was ecstatic!”
A priceless reaction from a thankful mother who remembered when her 4th grader first heard about a new program coming to her school called "Education Through Music."
“It’s been such a blessing in our home, not just for my child but all the children," she said. "You can see the difference from when they first started.”
The non-profit partners with inner city schools to provide classes, teachers and instruments as part of a well-rounded music education. And for many of the nearly 800 elementary schoolkids here at P.S. 91 in the Bronx, it's the first time they've ever been exposed to something like this.
“What’s not to be thankful for," Meridith Nasjlett, principal, said. “I would never have imagined, that 759 children would sing in my building and perform twice a year, it’s been such an incredible and thankful experience.”
These little ones were rehearsing for their end of the semester performance.
“It was fun," Emily Sanchez, a first grader, said. "If I was alone, I would be nervous,” Mosferat Ubaid, a first grader, added.
Helping them become the best artists they can be are the trained music teachers.
“She does things nice and she lets us sing songs,” Sanchez said.
“There’s a level of creativity that they don’t usually get to tap into in the regular classroom," Khristine Raymond, music teacher, "When they get music, you often see a side of students that you wouldn’t normally see.”
Khristine Raymond has played the cello since she was 12, performing at Lincoln Center and even the White House. But, seeing how music changes these kids brings her the most joy.
“A lot of the students become more self confident,” she explained. "To get those students to feel the way I did when I was their age is incredible, it is the most fulfilling thing.”
And at the holiday recital the next day, family and friends got to see all the hard work pay off.
“I hope that through music our children develop into amazing, amazing adults,” Nasjlett said.
And for some, like Gracie, into amazing musicians.
“I’m thankful for music because it gives me knowledge," Gracie said. "Music is something real, something important.”
Produced by: Kim Pestalozzi and Rebecca Millman