Bahama Village Music Program


Bahama Village Music Program (BVMP) provides free music education and instruction to children in the community from ages 6 to 18 at 103 Olivia Street! The program has been running for about 22 years, and offers lessons in all different instruments, including keyboard, drums, piano, bass, trumpet, guitar, ukulele, and more. They also have a bunch of programs within, some of which are “Joyful Voices Choir”, “School of Rock”, “Jazz Ensembles”, and others! Head to to see more details about what BVMP has to offer. 

The program was founded by Robin Kaplan in 1999, who is now also Director of The Music Room, after she noticed local schools were cutting funding on music and art programs, especially in the low income neighborhood of Bahama Village. Kaplan opened the program in honor of Miss Ellen Sanchez, a former school teacher and neighborhood piano instructor back in 1919. In the words of BVMP’s Executive Director, Kawana Staffney, “Miss Ellen was a tough, firm, and loving piano teacher. She even taught my mother and grandmother. She was a go to for the African American and Cuban population for musical education. Back then, funding wasn’t available the way it is now. Ms. Kaplan wanted to continue Miss Ellen’s legacy, and that’s how the program came about.” Staffney actually began with the program as a parent volunteer, her son was six years old at the time, and sang in the choir and took piano lessons. She started by chaperoning field trips, and found it impossible to leave soon after! When asked about her transcendence into the program, Staffney says, “There is nothing that I wanted to do more than to continue on the original legacy of Miss Ellen, fulfill the vision of Ms. Kaplan, and continue to provide a positive service to the neighborhood.” 

Staffney explains that the program is a way to keep at risk youth off the street, keep their hands busy, and help them to learn something that they might not have been exposed to under other circumstances. The children are very lucky to have this program in their community, it gives them a space to express and enjoy themselves in a creative way. Staffney mentions that many students excel through their program, and some end up pursuing musical endeavors, some doing gigs at churches, some joining bands around towns, and some going to school for music! The team at BVMP nurtures the relationships they form with the kids, both as instructors and general mentors. Staffney says, “They’re great kids, the beautiful thing about the lessons is that they never forget the little bit that you’ve added to their lives, even if its just a 30 minute lesson two times a week.”

BVMP accepts grants and donations at any time, which is what enables them to do what they do, and offer the services they have! Feel free to donate on their website, or, if interested, give them a call to volunteer! They have a lot of fundraising events coming up that they can use help with. Their Instagram is @bahamavillagemusicprogram !

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