When I met Michael, I knew that he loved music. Having majored in jazz piano at Florida State and been in a drum group in high school how could he not? You’ve probably heard him if you’ve seen a musical show at the local Tallahassee Little Theater or at Florida State (and if you ever visit, I definitely recommend the two—they always have really great shows). When all of our friends got together, he would always find a new tune or song to play and the best part of that was it always brought our circle of friends together. I will remember every single epic piano/guitar rap battle. What I didn’t know about him is that he also loves teaching.
He’s been working for The Center for the Arts in Thomasville, Georgia since 2009, when he started as a volunteer. As he explains it, it’s a non-profit which is “the central hub for the entire city and works to provide the community with educational programming as well as culturally infused events throughout the year.” Thomasville is a small town in southern Georgia which, according to the US Census, had a population of 18,488 in 2012. The median household income from 2007-2011 was $29,943 and almost 30% of the town lives below the poverty level. .
At The Center for the Arts, Michael works with a partnership organization called the Thomasville Community Resource Center where he teaches a percussion class for under-privileged middle school students. But he wanted to do more. He got his friends to help him establish the Thomasville Music Academy as a separate company in 2012 to administer affordable, private, or group lessons to these students. The Academy includes lessons for piano, guitar, drums and more. It’s already grown substantially since he first put it in place with several more teachers and students.
You’d think he would stop there, but he’s still not done. When I asked him what his future plans are he told me he wants to pursue a higher degree in education and to start a charter school in the southeast in the next 10 years. That is what makes him my education reformer star of the week. His charter school would include a family resource center to help students keep up with their school work, and parents become active participants in the education of their children. Not only does he want to give these families an opportunity to change their lives, but also, he wants to give the community the same opportunity. His goal is to provide this education for students and decrease the poverty level for future generations, hopefully in Thomasville where he would like to remain.
People like my friend Michael are the ones who make a difference. He’s already had an impact on his community by bringing musical education and passion to under-privileged students. He told me that it’s not a rare case to see the difference in a child’s life if you present the subject to them with passion and enthusiasm because they will gain the same passion and enthusiasm. He truly loves teaching and loves seeing how his students get better at playing the drums or the piano. I can cleary see his excitement when he tells me about his day at work or how his students are progressing
The dreamers are the ones who make a difference. The ones who see a community or a town and think, “I want to make it better.” So Michael, I can’t wait to see all of the wonderful changes you make with your music.