Even with clouds taking over the sky outside, smiles shined bright inside Brooklyn’s Frederick Douglas Academy VIII as students received a surprise of a lifetime.
The donation is part of StubHub’s commitment — announced last year — of giving $1 million of instruments into public school music education programs across the country as part of its Next Stage Social Good program. Friday’s donation marked the company’s final contribution to achieve the final goal.
In total, the program has donated a total of 817 instruments to over 4,000 students — Frederick Douglas Academy VIII receiving a total of 52 instruments.
“We work really hard and I’m starting to see that it really pays off, that other people actually care about what we do,” said Alexis Sanon, 12, a 7th grader at the middle school. “It was really cool, I was shocked. Knowing that they did this for us is really important.”
To add on to the surprise, the students were also treated to a performance by the group X Ambassadors — known for their platinum selling hit “Renegades.”
“Seeing that the band would come here actually makes us feel important because they’re on a world tour so them coming to our school is kind of special,” said seventh grader Ceana Adams, who is also part of the school's string ensemble.
The surprise reveal took place during what students thought was a special assembly.
According to the school’s principal, Chantal Grandchamps, Frederick Douglas Academy VIII has had to deal with some major budget cuts and although it has been tough, she said she makes sure the arts department is the last one that is affected.
Through help from outside grants and now the major donation of instruments, the goal is to continue allowing the students to thrive and grow.
“They’ve taken on so many challenges now that they would sometimes not want to take,” Grandchamps said. “They’ve conquered their fears and they are growing as young men and ladies through the music program.”
The music program first began at the school with a “handful of instruments and two handfuls of student” but has since grown to include over 80 children. Before Friday’s donation, students had to share instruments and could only take certain ones home two days per student.
Now, because of the extra instruments, students will be able to each have their own instrument and take them home seven days a week.
Jamaal Jones, the school’s music teacher, said that seeing the instruments up on the stage was overwhelming and students are constantly going up to him and thanking him.
“This has been a long time coming, not only preparing for this but in the three years I’ve been here and seeing it grow,” Jones said. “This is kind of like a milestone, that express train trying to get to that one stop. Just seeing it is overwhelming.”
For the X Ambassadors — who on Friday night are set to perform to a sold out room at Terminal 5 — playing in front of the middle schoolers was a special moment because they too started their love for music at a public school.
“The first time either of us ever played music in front of anyone was in school through our musical education program ,” said lead singer Sam Harris. “This is where you are going to discover that joy and passion.”
The group added that they recommend to any students who want to get into the music career to make sure to dedicate their time and be ready to work hard.
They said it is important to keep practicing and also try to encourage others about playing music, while also emphasizing the importance of keeping art programs in every public school system.
“The age that these kids are at is the time to learn an instrument and dedicate that time,” said drummer Adam Levin. “It’s a great way to interact and meet people and network and even if you don’t want to be a musician, it’s good practice for life.”