Members of the multi-Gold Medal winning South Florida Youth Symphony (SFYS.net), one of the nation’s premier youth music organizations, were excited in early March 2020 as they prepared for an eight-day concert exchange trip to Uruguay and Argentina later that month. For many of the talented young musicians—with an average age of 15, and most from underprivileged households in some of Miami’s poorest neighborhoods—it would be their first time on an airplane or out of the country.
Then the pandemic hit.
The trip, of course, had to be cancelled, forcing the 55-year-old non-profit organization—which recently captured Gold Medals at two international music competitions in Washington, D.C. in 2017 and Prague in 2019 in addition to a 2018 performance at Carnegie Hall—to cancel weekly practices and replace them with virtual practices, as well as the summer camp via Zoom.
THEN the really bad news hit.
The travel company that was coordinating the South American trip refused to fully refund the cost of the trip, keeping $800 per person (of the $2,700 cost per student) for ‘expenses.’
“Many of these parents, whose kids are with the SFYS on full or partial scholarship, had to scrape and save to send their kids on the South America trip,” said Marjorie Hahn, Executive and Creative Director of the SFYS who has been with the organization since it was founded by her step father Carmen Nappo in 1964. “Now those same parents, many of whom are unemployed because of COVID, are hurting and that $800 is vital to buy groceries and pay rent.”
To help alleviate the situation, the SFYS—which recently did 3 virtual concerts with students from combined Symphony orchestras, Miami Dade College orchestra and students from Spain and Panama, has started a Go Fund Me page to assist the parents, who lost a total of $30,000 because of the cancelation.
“At this time when there’s so much unrest and distress in our country, it is important for diverse and inclusive organizations such as ours to continue to work with underserved communities because our music program benefits all families and all children,” said Hahn, who takes pride in the fact that no student has ever been turned down by the SFYS because of the inability to pay. “Our music education program, caring teachers and diversity has been the backbone of the South Florida Youth Symphony for more than five decades. That’s why we’re trying to rally our community to help the parents and children. Simply put, they need that money to survive.”