After-school program uses music to tutor GR youth

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — An after-school program is using the power of music to break the cycle of poverty and pave a path to higher education for students in Grand Rapids.

Every single one of the teen graduates who has participated in New City Kids has gone on to college.

Students from Harrison Park Elementary, Stocking Elementary and Westwood Middle don’t slow down after their school day: They start warming up as they head to New City Kids.

The program hosted at City View Church on Grand Rapids’ northwest side mixes ministry, mentorship, and music.

“The music instruction is what really makes the joy happen here. All of the kids who come here get a chance to do music, instruments,” said Linda Rubingh, who along with her husband founded New City Kids 23 years ago in New Jersey.

“There’s tons of studies that have been done on the brain development that happens when you’re actually learning an instrument,” Rubingh added.

When New City Kids arrived in Grand Rapids in 2014, it needed a music director. It found one in Maurice Townsend. His experience as an “American Idol” contestant is just one thing that makes him a prime mentor.

He works along 38 paid teen interns showing the younger generation that they can do what they’re dreaming of.

“A lot of these kids and teens that come through here, I’ve heard a lot of their stories — from broken families to just brokenhearted and just being left,” Townsend said.

Drums, keyboard, bass guitar and singing drive the program with the hope and healing of music.

“Music is like therapy. Music just mends the heart, it mends the soul, it does something that nothing else can do,” Townsend said.

New City Kids will be performing a benefit concert April 24 at 20 Monroe Live in downtown Grand Rapids. Tickets for the event are available online.

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