By Clarence Waldron
Howard Sandifer, founder of the Chicago West Community Music Center, teaches his students “music is the universal language that is understood by people all over the world.”
Sandifer and 32 of his students are on a summer trip to China. It is their second trip there.
The Chicago West Community Center Orchestra will be the first Americans to perform at the Shanghai Music Festival and to participate in the MISA International Music Camp.
They left July 5 and return July 15.
“They will share their talents and skills with other students from around the world,” says Sandifer. “We have taught them to do their best. They are representing themselves, their families, Chicago West and their country.”
He adds, “They will learn that the world is really a big place. To quote Dr. Maya Angelou, ‘We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”
The Chinese students will visit Chicago on August 1 at Garfield Park Conservatory at 6:00 p.m.
Since he and his wife, Darlene, founded Chicago West Community Music Center in 1999, they have provided music education for 20,000 students. The Chicago West Community Music Center kicks off its summer concert series with “The Soul of Chicago” on Monday, July 23 at 1:00 p.m. in Amundsen Park, 6200 West Bloomingdale. Students will perform tunes by Minnie Riperton, Curtis Mayfield, Kanye West, Koko Taylor, Chaka Khan, Sam Cooke, Dinah Washington and Earth, Wind and Fire.
Other dates for the summer include Wednesday, July 25 at 1:00 p.m. in Fosco Park, 1312 South Racine; Monday, July 30 at 1:00 p.m. in Anderson Park, 3748 South Prairie; Monday, August 6 at 1:00 p.m. in Bradley Park, 9727 South Yates Avenue and Friday, August 10 at 6:00 p.m. in Garfield Park, 100 North Central Park Avenue.
Charles Brown, 19, looks forward to the summer series in the parks. “We bring a unique experience every time you hear us sing, from the old Motown songs to the Sounds of Philadelphia, we bring a lot of energy and passion to our performances. We want to see each other become better. We work with each other.”
He says, “Coming from the West Side is an eye-opener. We offer a lot of positivity. There is light in the city although it is often broadcast as so much darkness.”
Jamaal Crawford, 26, attended the Music Center and has returned as an instructor.
“I teach them that they can achieve what they want as long as they work hard, set goals and think ahead. Chicago West is a safe place to grow creatively as an artist.”
Perhaps, Cynthia Anthony-Harris, the mother of trumpeter Nathan Ferguson, sums up the success of CWCMC.
“I can’t thank you enough for providing such a brilliant music program to the children on the Westside of Chicago,” she wrote to the Center’s website.
“You have given our children an opportunity to dream, grow and share the God-given gifts within them; while allowing us, the parents, the opportunity to encourage, support, show pride, smile, and yes, sometimes even cry tears of joy at the beautiful music we get to enjoy.”
She concludes, “The CWCMC is a crown jewel that Chicago can be proud of.”