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NEW YORK — Like many young musicians, Montreal native Jessica Garand had dreams of playing in an orchestra. But when she started studying at The Juilliard School, she was quickly motivated to do something else.

“When I first came to New York, I was struck by the affluence of the city,” Garand said. “But also by the poverty.”

She decided to start a program that would help students from low-income backgrounds access music programs like Juilliard’s. In 2011, she began giving free, one-on-one lessons to a handful of kids, and called it the “Opportunity Music Project.” 

Now, more than a dozen teachers instruct 150 students in weekly private lessons on violin, viola, cello, or double bass. In addition to the lessons, students also get to be a part of an orchestra and a music theory class. There’s even a summer program for those who want to keep practicing all year long. And the results speak for themselves: some of her students have gone on to be accepted to places like Juilliard and the Manhattan School of Music.

The application for the program can be found on the Opportunity Music Project’s website. There, you can get involved with the organization in other ways too, by making a donation, sponsoring a student, or even joining the board. For Garand, the goal is a simple, but important one.

“Music is part of what makes us all human. It’s part of who we are,” Garand said. “For students in the city, and especially students of color, it’s so important to have access to great music education, and it’s not readily available. So that’s something that we’re trying to fix.”