In Response to Disaster
Anna Pietraszko, Executive Director, Miami Music Project
Hurricane Irma will go down as one of the most intense hurricanes in history. Causing widespread devastation and flooding, this 650-mile-wide storm left millions without power and destroyed one out of every four homes throughout our home state of Florida. The panic before the storm was clear, but it was its humbling aftermath that inspired me to think about different ways to help those most affected.
I decided we should do what we know best — harness music’s power to improve lives. For two weeks, we scheduled free performances (better known as “Sound Hugs”) by our teaching artists at homeless shelters, daycare centers, assisted-living facilities, and similar venues. By partnering with other community-driven organizations such as the local youth center, we doubled our impact and witnessed the wonderful power of music. Children who may have not had power at home were dancing and singing along with our teaching artists. Adults who may have lost their homes or had little access to a warm meal sat in peace while listening to the soothing sounds of a violin.
Additionally, our office opened its doors and welcomed students and families to cool off during the very hot days that followed the storm. Playing board games and sharing meals gave us the chance to connect with our students, hear their storm stories, and comfort them. Our entire team also made time to assist in cleaning up local schools so classes could resume more easily. It was exciting to receive supply donations from as far away as Oregon. Thanks to social media, word spread and we helped distribute these supplies in a collective effort to the Florida Keys.
During these two weeks, we saw that even in hardship, it’s still about music and it’s still about community; the two are inseparable. Community-driven organizations like ours have a special obligation to support our children and families when the going gets tough. Understanding that we are all vulnerable can be terrifying, but also allows kindness, human connection, and love to emerge. This is how the most genuine communities are built, and how children grow to be remarkable young people.