SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – This year the Golden Gate Philharmonic Orchestra in San Francisco is 20 years old. It’s an after school youth orchestra program that, thanks to Joan Murray, has touched the lives of hundreds of young musicians in the Bay Area.
On any given weekend music fills Joan Murray’s house. In her den, there’s practice for a young string quartette; upstairs in the living room, a violin lesson. And in her garage, next to stacks of donated violins and shelves of sheet music, portable tables are filled with young students attempting to master music theory.
It’s what Joan envisioned when she started the Golden Gate Philharmonic Orchestra, a nonprofit dedicated to nurturing young musical talent.
“You learn discipline, focus, and you get a lot of joy out of it, because you are making beautiful music,” said Joan.
And making beautiful music together is what GGP has been doing for 20 years. For 37 years, Joan taught orchestra in the public schools. During that time she saw music programs and budgets whittle away.
Though she retired in 1993, the music continued.
“It’s important when you see what it does for kids, especially with inner city kids. It gives them an alternative to what they see every day,” she said.
Joan, who has never taken a salary from GGP, raises money to help fund 19 part-time faculty, and cover students who can’t afford the $875 yearly tuition for the after school program.
“I’ve been on full scholarship most of this time—lessons and everything,” said high school senior and violinist Gabriel Anguiana. “If it wasn’t for the GGP I wouldn’t be able to play right now.
Gabriel is now looking at attending the prestigious Eastman School of Music.
In addition to lessons at her home, GGP students meet weekly after school in rooms she rents at the San Francisco School of the Arts.
Joan leads one of the four GGP student string orchestras, providing an opportunity for 112 kids at all musical levels to perform together, like 8-year-old Sammy Vernick.
“I find it better to listen to my sound, and I adjust from the other people when I am not doing it well,” Sammy said.
Parent Marilyn Chism says Joan’s an inspiration to her child.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, or how much money you make,” Chism said. “Joan’s commitment is to the music and to the kids.”
So for enriching the lives of children through music, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Joan Murray.