SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — A pair of musicians is using the power of music to transform the lives of underserved students in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Joyful sounds fill the air as students show off their musical skills in a concert performance.

Many have taken free lessons for months or years at Music Mission San Francisco, the nonprofit founded by professional musicians Steve Perdicaris and Margaret Gonzalez in 2015.

“The first time we see them holding their instrument is amazing. The pride they feel, the happiness,” said Gonzalez, who has worked with several professional chamber ensembles and symphonic orchestras.

Perdicaris, a professional musician and associate professor at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, said the Mission District was the “ideal” place to open the nonprofit.

“A lot of arts programs have been either eliminated completely or cut down a lot, so we knew if we offered a program there there’d probably be a lot of interest,” Perdicaris explained.

In addition, Gonzalez wanted to replicate the free music program she had enrolled in growing up in Venezuela. That program, called El Sistema, teaches music as a vehicle for social change.

“And it made me believe in things I could achieve. It made me believe I could achieve everything,” said Gonzalez.

Music Mission San Francisco holds free afterschool classes twice a week at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. Volunteers teach about 80 students, aged six through 15 years old, on donated instruments.

During the pandemic, the choir is on hold until they can meet again in person. But violin and cello classes were moved online, and have provided some comfort during the pandemic.

“Children are going through all kinds of emotions, and music can take them away from some of the harsh realities they might be dealing with,” said Perdicaris.

Margarita Flamenco says the lessons have made her son and daughter more responsible.

“They changed a lot,” she said.

Flamenco’s teenage daughter Monica Huerta described how she’s developed self-confidence thanks to the class.

“I was able to manage to learn how to play the violin. So now I can learn something much harder; like, challenge myself more,” Huerta said.

For empowering underserved children with free music lessons from Music Mission San Francisco, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Margaret Gonzalez and Steve Perdicaris.