“It’s a journey that they never forget,” said Stewart, a past recipient of the NAACP Image Award and the United Nations Peace Medal.
Some of the children, like 16-year-old Adrian Person, were reluctant to join the program.
Adrian, a 10th-grader at Booker T. Washington Senior High, told his father he was too busy practicing to get on the football team in the spring.
But Adrian’s 17-year-old brother Zackary wanted to be part of the program, so Adrian went along with it. Now, he said, he enjoys hanging out with his new friends each Sunday and playing the bass drum.
He’s not nervous to perform, even though the 2,200-seat Knight Concert Hall is expected to fill up.
“I am absolutely excited,” Adrian said.
Mirlanta, who earns mostly A’s at Miami Edison Senior High, will be the first person in her family of four siblings to go to college when she heads to Miami Dade College next fall.
She’s one of the few teens who have a background in music. She started playing the clarinet in sixth grade at Miami Edison Middle School.
But she was hungry for more.
Her mom works, making it difficult for her to participate in activities after school she loves. She wasn’t able to get from her home in Little Haiti to the Sunday rehearsals in Coconut Grove, so Weiss picks her up, along with three others who need rides.
Mirlanta started out on the djembe, a West African drum that reaches hip height and is played with the hands.
After the first Rhythms of Africa rehearsal, she switched to the cowbell because nobody else volunteered to play it. Now, she wants to go back and learn the djembe, and any other instrument she can.
Along with the music, she loves the group’s unity. In 10 weeks, she said, they’ve made something amazing.
“It’s strangers coming together, cooperating,” she said.