Making a Difference Through Music

Americas Now

Several years ago, Rey Ramirez had a highly-respected career as education director of a professional symphony.  But in 2009, he happily traded in his top-tier profession to start Soundscapes, a musically centered youth outreach program in Newport News, Virginia. 

In a town where one in four children lives in poverty, Ramirez and his co-founders saw the need for a program that could teach kids academic and life skills,  through  musical instruments.  Soundscapes is based off the Venezuelan youth orchestra social movement called “El Sistema,” started by Jose Antonio Abreu in 1989. In 2009, Soundscapes was the fourth “El Sistema” program in the U.S. Today, only four years later, it is one of over 100.

Ramirez cites the rapid growth of the program to its effectiveness. Participating students in struggling neighborhoods are not only kept off of the streets, but  are also learning about discipline, teamwork, and self-confidence. With the help of a few flutes, clarinets, violins, and trumpets, Ramirez and his team at Soundscapes are doing more than teaching kids music; they are building the futures of children in Newport News.