The Music School Where West Side Youth Become ‘Global Citizens’

By The Chicago Community Trust Staff

“Many times, our kids don’t see themselves as the wonderful, talented, intelligent individuals they are. They are faced with many unfortunate things that are part of the community, but that doesn’t mean those things have to be part of them.” 

Twenty years ago, Howard and Darlene Sandifer looked around their Lawndale neighborhood and were dismayed by the lack of quality music education for young people on the West Side.

Sitting at their kitchen table, they developed a plan to change their community and its schools through music instruction. Their vision included enhancing personal and educational growth, so that each student could reach his or her full potential.

Drawing on Howard’s experience with educational outreach for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Ravinia, they developed the Lawndale Community Music Center. Without a building, they taught at schools, churches or “wherever there was a need or desire for music education.” The first program taught guitar to 15 neighborhood students.

Through grants and other partnerships, their program—soon renamed the Chicago West Community Music Center (CWCMC) — began to grow.

 

GROWING COMMUNITY

In 2015, CWCMC was selected to participate in SMART Growth: a signature grant program of The Chicago Community Trust. This four-year initiative provides small, neighborhood-based arts organizations with general operating funding, while helping them strengthen their operations and management practices to become sustainable and resilient.

Today CWCMC operates out of new facilities in the Garfield Park Fieldhouse, providing instruction for 700 to 1,000 students each year.  Full Story

 “When we first started taking field trips downtown, many of the younger children had never been outside of their community,” said Howard Sandifer. But today those students’ talent and dedication is helping them reach new horizons. Thirty members of the CWCMC orchestra will appear at the Shanghai Music Festival in July 2018—the first non-Asian ensemble ever to be invited to perform.

“When we first started taking field trips downtown, many of the younger children had never been outside of their community,” said Howard Sandifer. But today those students’ talent and dedication is helping them reach new horizons. Thirty members of the CWCMC orchestra will appear at the Shanghai Music Festival in July 2018—the first non-Asian ensemble ever to be invited to perform.