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Atlanta Music Project scores $122,801 Cooke Foundation grant

By Howard Pousner

The Atlanta Music Project, a non-profit that provides intense music education for at-risk children, has received a grant of $122,801 from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

The Widening the Stage grant is one of only six awarded by the Virginia-based foundation to youth music programs across the country. Renewable annually for the next three years, the grants are intended to  increase advanced instruction and performance opportunities for talented, low-income students, ages 8 to 18.

The largest grant ever to the Atlanta Music Project will be used to create the Exceptional Student Program, which will provide the best resources to the 20 most advanced AMP students to further develop their musical abilities.

The program will offer, free-of-charge, instruments, weekly private lessons from AMP’s teaching artists, master classes, public recitals and chamber music concerts, according to a Cooke Foundation release.

“With this grant, we can begin an additional track for gifted students who would not otherwise have the opportunity for advanced musical training,” AMP executive director Dantes Rameau said. “Children from Atlanta’s most underprivileged neighborhoods can now realize their full musical potential. Our program is giving them confidence, creativity, ambition and a sense of purpose.”

AMP’s after-school youth orchestra and choir program offers music education five days a week, two hours per day, at the Coan Recreation Center in the Kirkwood neighborhood intown and the Gilbert House in southwest Atlanta. There are no auditions for the free program, founded in 2010, which requires only that students commit to attending all classes.

It is modeled on El Sistema, the Venezuelan youth orchestra system that emphasizes intensive ensemble participation from an early age, group learning, peer teaching and a commitment to making musical learning fun and music making ever-present, according to the El Sistema USA web site.

Widening the Stage grant recipients mainly went to well-established U.S. youth music programs, including the Merit School of Music in Chicago, the Levine School of Music in Washington and the Settlement Music School of Philadelphia.

“Musical talent exists in all communities,” Cooke Foundation executive director Lawrence Kutner said, “but not all communities have the financial resources to nurture that talent to its fullest potential …

“These exemplary programs will give students who have the motivation and aptitude to pursue rigorous music education the pathways to achieve their dreams.”

More on AMP:

To read an earlier AJC story on AMP, go to

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