May 24, 2023
Sunstate Orchestral Program of Tampa is placing instruments in the hands of children to help introduce them to the world of music.
With the recent increase in migrants seeking asylum in the U.S., the program has established a scholarship known as the Refugiarte Scholarship.
Jesus Sera is the musical director for the program and said he’s excited about the opportunity for students and their families.
“Music will open the doors for them. For me, music opened the doors to this country and I’m certain that the music will open the doors for many of the children who are part of this program,” he said.
The scholarship will help children who want to take up music and wouldn’t have the opportunity otherwise.
For Maria Gabriela Blanco, music is a form of expression. She’s been playing the violin for 3 years.
“The instrument that I liked the most and the one that was the most elegant and beautiful was the violin, because my mom used to play and that really inspired me,” she said.
The violin helped Blanco cope with the emotions she faced after leaving Venezuela.
“It was a very drastic change aside from all the challenges we faced,” she said.
It was a 72-day journey for Blanco and her family to get to the U.S. They traveled by foot, car and boat. Blanco said they came seeking a better life.
“When we got here, it was a big difference,” she said. “We didn’t know anything and we didn’t know what the laws were like here or how the people were.”
She said the first place that welcomed them with open arms was the Sunstate Orchestral Program. Blanco attends classes every Thursday and Saturday — the program designed to transform lives through the power of music.
The nonprofit organization provided Blanco with a scholarship so she could continue sharing her love of music with others.
She said it helped her become connected. That connection is also strengthening family ties as Maria shares her passion for music with her cousin, Juhlia Daniela Blanco Rioz.
“She always inspires me, she teaches me how to play, shows me the notes and I think it’s beautiful,” said Rioz.
Blanco doesn’t just express herself through music, but artwork as well.
“I have always wanted to be an artist. It’s like a calling for me,” she said. “All types of art are beautiful and I want to practice them all.”
If it wasn’t for the arts, Blanco said she would feel lost.
“The violin, the scholarship, they’re constant motivations to keep going and going because I have given it my all and the teachers are just incredible,” she said.
With every note Blanco plays, she hopes music will continue to guide her through her new home away from home.
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