Community Voices

Guitars Over Guns students make professional music video

The students in Guitars Over Guns raise awareness against violence and promote positive change through music. They were treated to a recording and production experience, hosted by Imagina US, where they made a video to Charles Wright's classic "Express Yourself.”
The students in Guitars Over Guns raise awareness against violence and promote positive change through music. They were treated to a recording and production experience, hosted by Imagina US, where they made a video to Charles Wright's classic "Express Yourself.”

Each year, Miami’s Guitars Over Guns works with students to create a music video of a song remake. The mentoring group has a mission to empower at-risk youth to grow artistically, socio-emotionally, and academically.

For 2018, they chose Charles Wright's classic "Express Yourself.” And this year, production and broadcast company Imagina US helped the students shine even brighter by giving the young musicians the opportunity of a lifetime — to record in a state-of-the-art facility.

Director Milcho and members of the Imagina US team taught the students how to record, produce and shoot a high-quality music video with the latest technology and equipment. They also provided the students with a full band set-up, dressing rooms, and on-set hair and make-up artists.

“The impact that this video shoot had on our program is profound, and the response from our students has been overwhelming,” said Ted Zimmerman, regional director of Miami Guitars Over Guns, in an email. “We strive to provide unique opportunities for our students, but this sets a new bar. We are so grateful for Milcho, who did an exceptional job of pulling out the best of our students, as well as the entire team at Imagina US.”

“These kids fully embraced being outside their comfort zone and fought through any inhibitions to beautifully represent the song ‘Express Yourself,’” Milcho said in an email. “It was heartwarming and an honor to work with them. As director, my responsibility was to create a fun, nonjudgmental and energetic environment so each and every one of them could tap into their endless creativity. We all created magic together that day in the hopes that it encourages these kids to dream bigger, focus on their goals and concentrate on making only positives choices for themselves moving forward.”

The official music video will be released for fans in upcoming weeks.

Chad Bernstein, founder and CEO of Guitars Over Guns said the students had recorded in a normal music studio before, but “never at a full-service high-end production studio or had the support of a production and camera crew.”

“Music is the key to open the door, but relationships are the foundation for our students to reach their full potential,” Bernstein said in an email. “Experiences like this open our students’ eyes to a world that exists beyond the classrooms they spend so much of their lives in. The result is a transformational impact through the bond that our students will have with one another and their mentors as a result of this shared experience.”

“We are thrilled to collaborate with Guitars Over Guns and experience the charity’s work first hand,” Imagina US production manager Katherine Soffia said. “By offering our services as tools for these students, we hope to empower them on a grander scale to continue growing as musicians and embrace all opportunities to learn and succeed.”

The first Guitars Over Guns program began at North Miami Middle School in 2008. Over eight years, the program has grown to offer music and mentoring at seven schools as well as community centers in Miami and Chicago. Guitars Over Guns also has expanded to include dance, visual arts, and a summer camp. Watch videos and learn how to get involved at

10th annual Miracle Games

Play basketball to benefit Achieve Miami, a group that helps students and teachers stretch their leadership skills, 12:30 p.m. May 19 at Temple Beth Am gym, 5950 Kendall Dr.

Cost for the 3-on-3 tournament is $10 per player or $30 per team. Everyone — singles, pairs or teams of three — is welcome to join in the fun for this good cause. Community service hours will be given to players and volunteers.

Contact or More about Achieve Miami is at

Rotary Club event

Keith Noble, director of Pinkerton Florida, will discuss an upcoming free workplace violence seminar at the next Rotary Club of Miami Dadeland-Pinecrest breakfast meeting. The event is 7:30-8:30 a.m., May 8 at the Dadeland Marriott, 9090 S. Dadeland Blvd.

Everyone is invited. If you are interested in attending as a guest, contact Eric Gressman, 786-239- 0701 or, or Ron Lieberman, 305-613-6744 or More about this Rotary Club is at

Experience Mozart

Orchestra Miami will present a revised version of “The Magic Flute” at Scottish Rite Masonic Temple, 8 p.m. May 11, and 2 p.m. May 13, at 471 NW Third St.

Advanced tickets are $20-$60, and seniors and military personnel receive 15 percent off. Tickets are $25-$65 at the door.

This production will be fully staged by Emmy award-winning director David Grabarkewitz and conducted by Orchestra Miami’s Artistic Director Elaine Rinaldi. Costume design is by Marina Pareja.

The cast features Metropolitan Opera star tenor Gregory Schmidt as Tamino, internationally renowned soprano Yunah Lee as Pamina, American baritone Gabriel Preisser as the bird-man Papageno, bass-baritone Neil Nelson as Sarastro, and introducing Miami native Melissa Ruiz as the Queen of the Night. The opera will be sung in English, with dialogue in a new translation by Grabarkewitz.

“Working with the gentlemen at the Scottish Rite has been a real embodiment of Orchestra Miami’s mission to build community through music,” Rinaldi said in an email. “By bringing this ‘Masonic opera’ to the Scottish Rite, we are able to take advantage of the invaluable resources of the Temple’s unique and beautiful theatrical backdrops which were created specifically for Masonic rituals, as well as collaborate with benefit from the knowledge of the members of the Scottish Rite.”

“My dialogue for The Magic Flute was originally created in a short version for The New York City Opera,” Grabarkewitz said. “In 2008 I began an exciting collaboration with Orchestra Miami Founder and Artistic Director Elaine Rinaldi to expand this to a full production which I workshopped with Ms. Rinaldi in 2007.”

The Scottish Rite is “letting us use their priceless hand-painted backdrops to use for the set as well as their props for rituals,” Rinaldi said. Purchase tickets at A matinee for children, performed by talented young local singers, is 2-4 p.m., May 12.

If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at