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OKLAHOMA CITY -
For three months, El Sistema has been a positive outlet for Oklahoma City school children in need of an afterschool activity. The music program put instruments in 100 students' hands, and Friday night was their very first concert.
The students performing on Friday night never played instruments before this program.
Watching TV and playing games is all 9-year-old Malachi Lewis said he would do after school. That is until he joined the El Sistema Oklahoma children's orchestra.
"I like it a lot because you can play your instrument, I play the tuba, and it makes big sounds," Malachi said.
Malachi's grandmother Alta Gleason loves the program.
"It's built up his self-esteem, he feels better about himself, he has to shake hands, stand and bow," said Gleason, who also serves at the Vice President of the Gatewood Elementary School PTA, where Malachi attends. "It is a hard neighborhood and school because it is more inner city, so we don't get a lot of things offered to us."
El Sistema started in September, giving about 100 third to sixth graders from six schools, a free instrument and a world-class education in classical music.
"We weren't asking for model students, we were looking for those who we wanted to see turn around," said Jose Luis Hernandez-Estrada, Executive director and principal conductor of the El Sistema orchestra. "It is a social change program through music, and we use the orchestra as our vehicle."
The young minds learn how to read music and work as a team.
"I tell them every day, if you can learn a piece of music with all those intricacies and complexities, hey, you can accomplish anything in life," said Hernandez-Estrada.
Malachi's grandmother agrees.
"Malachi just doesn't want to miss, he has not missed one night and he just doesn't want to miss," she said.
"He has three hours of music every night that is positive, and this is a possibility that it could take him on to college."
The El Sistema orchestra plans to join with the Northwest Classen High School band and orchestra for a joint concert on March 7.