Students from Roberta Flack School of Music surround big fan and school’s namesake, Roberta Flack.
Roberta Flack School Sings A Future For Many Bronx Students
The house was packed, but easily the most enthusiastic fan at the Roberta Flack School of Music’s first Winter Music Festival last week was the school’s chief benefactor and namesake.
Time and again the multi-Grammy Award-winning Flack leaped from her first-row center seat to lead the applause during the two-hour program, held in the Hyde Leadership Charter School auditorium in Hunts Point, the Bronx.
She stalked the footlights for better angles, hugged every child - and many adults - who ventured within arms’ reach and even admonished the crowd to quiet down.
“I didn’t know it was going to be this good!” Flack said with a grin. “These children have worked so hard. Please give them your undivided attention.”
School leader Joanne Goubourn, program director and vocal teacher Maya Orr and instrument music teacher Greg Tardy pulled out all the stops for the famed pop singer’s visit to the South Bronx school.
Students Anthony Davis, Nashell Suarez and Amber Solomon, all 12, and Omar Martinez, 13, greeted Flack with flowers at curbside and escorted her to her seat.
The program included traditional spirituals, several tunes composed by Orr, poetry readings, a collection of jazz tunes from Brazil and a tribute to Flack, which included a rendition of one of her signature songs, “Killing Me Softly with His Song.”
Now in its second year, the Roberta Flack School has 150 children, most from the South Bronx, ranging in age from 6 to 14 years old. They receive vocal and instrumental instruction three days a week after school.
Community support of the school “has been overwhelming,” said business manager Angela Alvarado. “There are a lot of talented kids in this area. Frankly, it’s gratifying that we can have such a great program to offer them.”
Flack said she wanted to found a music school for years and two years ago had even picked out a Harlem lot where she planned to build a building.
Flack was a child prodigy who entered Howard University on a full scholarship when she was 15 years old. “Never once in my life did I have to pay for a music lesson,” Flack said. “Someone else always paid for me. This is my way of giving back.”
Three things brought the school to Hunts Point: Problems developed with the Harlem site, Flack and Goubourn met and discussed the possibility of starting a school and a musical benefactor who asked not to be named read of Flack’s plan and sent her “a big check.”
“I returned the check several times because I didn’t know who it was from,” Flack said.
Music is the method, but Goubourn said the school’s main focus is “to help our children learn how to be good people. We want them to make personal goals and to take on the challenges to meeting those goals.”
Parents like Theodore Davis, who was there watching daughter Tiffany, 6, perform, are just happy the school was there.
“I love this school,” he said. “There is a really positive attitude in this place.”
Davenel Jean was thrilled as his daughter, Dezhane, 6, sang Orr’s “Rainbow Dream.”
“I knew she could sing - she never stops singing,” Jean said.
The school is trying to raise $12,000 to send a dozen students to the 28th annual Alcorn State University Jazz Festival in Lorman, Miss., on April 19.
Contributions can be sent to the school, 730 Bryant Ave., Bronx, N.Y. 10474. The phone number is (718) 991-5500.
Several students will also be performing with Flack at her Feb. 14 concert at B.B. King’s Restaurant in Times Square.
Tags: Bronx Education, Bronx News, hunts point, roberta flack, Roberta Flack School of Music, South Bronx, winter music festival