Music start-up gives children the opportunity to take lessons for free

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MIDTOWN, Manhattan — It’s the sound of possibility offered for free to students across the city.

“It makes me feel so happy,” Cesar Rendon smiled.

He’s only 8 years old but Cesar Rendon is a natural on the cello.

“It looks like it’s heavy but it’s not actually heavy,” he laughed.

Over the past year, he’s quickly learned song after song.

“I already know, like, nine,” he bragged.  

His talent is being groomed alongside his siblings with the help of Opportunity Music Project.

“There’s just not enough schools that create that access at the entry level,” Jessica Garand said.

Garand launched the nonprofit in 2011 while earning her masters at Juilliard.

“I saw there was a disconnect [in the community] and I wanted to create an avenue where students at the school or students who graduated from Juilliard could go on and teach,” she said.

She’s played the violin since she was 9 and knows the advantage one-on-one attention has on a budding artist.

“To be able to have those private music lessons where someone’s just fixing your technique and fixing things here and there every week is really important,” Garand said.

Since day one, the number of students, many of whom come from low-income families, has grown substantially — from about 12 to more than 100.

“Lessons happen twice a week so you come in for your private music lesson and you come in as well to take part in a group class or the orchestra training,” she said.

For the Rendons, it’s truly been a family affair as Jocelyn and Jesus are also thriving.

“I’ve learned a lot of techniques for playing and [it’s helped] my fear for playing in front of everybody,” Jesus said. “She taught us not only about music but how to be respectful to others and how to treat your violin.”

His sister Jocelyn added, “This has opened a lot of opportunities for me like different ways of how to interact.”

The organization gives instruments to the students, which is why she is always looking for donations.

We currently have an instrument drive underway where we collect violins, violas, cellos and now double basses,” Garand said.

While this opportunity has truly encouraged these kids to pursue their passion, it’s also inspired a little sibling rivalry.

“I am kind of the best,” Cesar joked.

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