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Barry Manilow at the 2009 Grammys.
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Want to make a difference? Ongoing donations of musical instruments are being accepted for Chicago Public Schools students. Drop off your donation at ABC 7 Chicago, 190 N. State St.

By Gabrielle Abesamis
Niles West

When Anissa Loyola moved from her suburban junior high school to a Chicago public school, little did she know that she would have to do more than make new friends. She had to give up her hobby: orchestra.

“(Our music class is) known for being an easy class because we don’t really do anything in that class, honestly,” said Loyola, a junior at Senn. “Since our funds were cut off, our principal took out all the fun classes.”

As the economy took a plunge, a lot of Chicago public schools had to tighten their budgets. And because the priority of the school board is to preserve core classes such as math, English and science, extracurriculars such as sports, art and music programs have to take a back seat.

“We have a choir but it’s only a small one,” Loyola said. “It’s basically a club instead of a real choir. We have decent people but we aren’t the best. We have really talented people in our school but their talents (can’t shine) because we don’t have enough activities or instruments.”

Enter singer-songwriter Barry Manilow and his organization Manilow Music Project (MMP). Its aim is to donate instruments and materials to music programs in local public schools.

Manilow recently partnered with ABC 7 to donate new and gently used instruments to CPS. MMP said it has collected more than 1,000 instruments nationwide. When Manilow visited Chicago in July, he donated a Yamaha piano to CPS and asked Chicagoans to donate instruments. So far, close to 100 instruments have been donated.

“Music plays a huge role in children’s lives,” says Melvin Davis, a fine arts teacher at Bogan. “Without music education, there will be an increase in dropouts and an increase in violence. The society will suffer as a whole. I want to help (MMP) make the world sing, and bring back our music program.”

As generations pass and the trends in music change, for Alain La, a junior at Lake View, the fact that music is a medium for emotions, thoughts and spiritual growth will stay the same.

“Music means everything to me,” La said. “It shows me a new way of seeing the world and all of its magnificence. Education is really important—like in science we learn about stars, planets, the universe and life. It opens my eyes into enjoying every minute of my life. So when you ask me what music means to me, it means my life.”

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The Mash is the Chicago Tribune's newspaper and website written for teens, by teens. The paper is distributed for free each Thursday at Chicago-area high schools and is written largely by high school students.

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