Senior helps establish volunteer music program in Marin City

Maggie Smith

Despite the early hour on a Saturday, the eager faces of the young music students fill a MLK-Bayside Middle School classroom.

This was exactly the environment that senior Noa Zimmerman was trying to create—a positive space where kids could experiment with music freely.

It’s the second meeting of the Soundwaves program, which was created this year to give kids in Marin City the opportunity to learn music.

Every Saturday, kids can come and take free music lessons, mostly given by high school students. Currently, there are about 15 Redwood students who volunteer with the program.

The first meeting, according to Zimmerman, was a huge success.

“There were a lot of people, a lot of energy. It created such a warm environment,” Zimmerman said.

According to program founder Jonnette Newton, the former principal of MLK-Bayside Middle School, Soundwaves was created to give kids the opportunity to learn music.

The program aims to prepare middle school students for music programs in high school, which had been difficult previously due to the lack of music education in middle school.

In order be ready for high school, the students need basic practice on their instruments, but since a lot of the students are low-income, many could not afford private lessons, according to Newton.

Newton says the program was also created to give students new career and educational opportunities in music.

“It was a career path that was not available to our students,” Newton said. “It’s a hook to keep [the kids] in high school.”

Zimmerman also mentioned the importance of having an outlet for any problems the kids might be having in their lives.

“These kids are growing up in an environment where they’re watching the adults solve their problems with violence, and they really need good role models and someone in their life to help them learn how to deal with issues and how to express themselves in the right way so they don’t fall into those traps that they’re being exposed to,” she said.

Last year, Newton created a more informal version of the program, in which a few Redwood students, including Zimmerman, would come on various days and teach.

Teaching flute lessons to students at MLK-Bayside Middle School on a Saturday morning, freshman Emily Comins volunteers at the Sound Waves Program.
Teaching flute lessons to students at MLK-Bayside Middle School on a Saturday morning, freshman Emily Comins volunteers at the Sound Waves Program. Zimmerman, would come on various days and teach.

This year, Zimmerman helped to create a new program by coming up with a name and mission statement and attracting more Redwood volunteers.

Freshman Emily Comins, a flute player, decided to volunteer for Soundwaves because she was excited to help kids play music.

“I want to help or give the opportunity to learn an instrument if they can’t afford to get a teacher,” Comins said.

According to Zimmerman, teaching music is a new challenge for many Soundwaves volunteers.

“[The volunteers] have to figure out what makes [the kids] excited, what makes them engaged and keeps them coming in and wanting to learn music,” she said.

Comins said that teaching can be rewarding, especially when a student is passionate about their instrument and practices what they’ve learned.

“When they say ‘Oh, it’s so fun! I love playing the flute!’ it just makes me feel so happy,” Comins said.

Zimmerman echoed Comins’ sentiments, saying she loves when kids start getting excited about music.

“I get so much out of it because I know what they’re going through,” she said.

According to Zimmerman, music may not only be a fun hobby for kids in Marin City, but also a way to help find their voices, in the same way it was for her.

“Music is a really great way to find your identity and gain confidence, and it’s just a really good thing for their lives,” she said. “The kids are still kids. They still get excited by music. They have as much potential as us. They just need a different kind of support because of the environment they live in.”