CARROLLWOOD — Since 1892, The Children’s Home has provided a safe haven for abused, abandoned and neglected children, working within the family for placement or, if necessary, outside of it, to find temporary foster homes and even permanent adoptive families.
Sitting in the chapel converted for music lessons, Janiya listens intently to teacher Marion Haase as she explains where to place her fingers on the neck of the guitar. Thanks to a multi-partner partnership led by the Arts Council of Tampa Bay, The Children’s Home residents like Janiya are proud recipients of brand-new guitars, ukuleles, snare drums and keyboards.
Janiya is one of 35 children ages 7 to 17 that currently call the expansive 88 acres of dormitories and cottages at 10909 Memorial Highway home.
With a slight hesitant smile that blossoms into a full-blown grin when asked her favorite musician, she explains her musical influences and why she likes performing.
“Ciara,” Janiya explained. “I really like her singing. She’s a Christian like me and I feel I can be close to her.”
Yet, her main two reasons — cited as the most important reasons to perform — are relatable to anyone who has felt the thrill of an audience.
“Because I can show off and there’s a lot of people clapping for you,” she said.
And clap they will because this particular 13-year-old is a triple threat enjoying singing, dancing and musical instruments, including guitar and piano. Eventually, after mastering guitar, she wants to learn the flute.
Caroll Vick, director of education for the Arts Council of Hillsborough County, says that kids are positively impacted by having a musical outlet. A study at Northwestern University demonstrates the value of music in improving concentration, memory and focus in children.
Through Project Promise, the educational support program began at The Children’s Home during the 2014-2015 school year, upper elementary and secondary school-aged residents receive free music lessons. The instruments are available for check-out by the students for practice sessions between Monday lessons.
“There is a proven increase in graduation rates, increase in academic achievement, attendance in school — just by allowing creative expression in children,” said Vick.
Vick presented her music instruction idea to her arts council board and her director questioned if The Children’s Home had instruments. The board was concerned that if the children didn’t have instruments to practice on, it would limit the impact of the program. Four members of the board donated funding to help make the instrument library happen.
“We able to get a substantial discount from Sam Ash Music in Carrollwood, so we could get enough instruments that we could create a music library. The kids could have their weekly instruction, but also check out instruments,” said Vick. “The Arts Council works as a team with The Children’s Home to have a positive impact on children’s lives.”
For more on The Children’s Home or to donate instruments, visit www .childrenshome.org or call (813) 855-4435.