CORONA — Strike up the band!
The Corona Youth Music Project will perform its Concert of Light at the Queens Museum on Dec. 13, showcasing all 150 students for the first time, according to the director.
The Project — also known as Núcleo Corona — started in the summer of 2010 by Alvaro Rodas, 43, a percussionist and teacher originally from Guatemala.
A teacher as well as a musician, he wanted to work with children and after graduating as an Abreu Fellow from the New England Conservatory in Boston, a program that encourages music education as a means for social change.
Rodas, who came to New York City after completing the program, wanted to work with Guatemalan immigrants.
Although he'd never been to Corona, he found out the neighborhood was home to the city's only branch of Pollo Campero, a popular Guatemalan fast-food chain.
"I thought, 'Well, they did the market research and put this first franchise in Corona,'" Rodas said. "So I had it in my mind I would do it in Corona."
What he found, beyond the familiar restaurant, was a vibrant community with many families — but, once he asked around, not many music programs.
"It gave me a very good impression — that this was the right place to do this," he said, adding that his desire to work with Guatemalan immigrants soon became a desire to work with the many ethnicities in Corona.
His first program was a "bucket band," featuring 15 students playing beats and rhythms on buckets.
The program has since grown from 15 kids banging bucket drums to more than 150 children participating in two orchestras, a chorus and a musical training program for younger students.
It's the borough's only El Sistema, which is a name given to orchestras worldwide that work to bring social change, especially through youth programs.
The show on Dec. 13 will give a sample of the various programs, Rodas said, adding that the group is always looking for volunteers and teachers to continue educating local kids.
"Parents are very committed and very enthusiastic about having their kids in programs like this," he said.
The Corona Youth Music Project's Concert of Light at the Queens Museum, Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. Admission is free, but a donation is encouraged. For more information, visit the museum's website.