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Our History

Part of our curriculum allows for gym time and recreation, including music classes. In fact, many of our employees are members of our own band, The Spirit of Goodwill Band - winner of numerous awards.

"The Spirit of Goodwill" Band is the basis of the music program at Goodwill which was implemented to facilitate the improvement of social and recreational skills, community integration, and personal adjustment for people with disabilities. The participant singers and musicians are characterized by a variety of physical, developmental, and psychological disabilities such as autism, mental retardation, Down's syndrome, cerebral palsy, visual impairments, and behavioral disorders, among other disabilities.

The program was initiated as a group of vocalists, absent of instruments, in 1981, and it became a tradition for them to sing at the Holiday Party and at the Annual Business meeting of Goodwill. A professional music director was retained to guide their training and performances. In 1996 Javier Peña joined Goodwill as the new music program director. Javier observed that some of the participants had a natural talent to play musical instruments, and the idea to develop this talent was immediately supported by the administration. For all involved in the program, this was a new challenge since most of them had no previous musical experience.

Through a very lengthy process of personalized instruction, dedication and patience, participants gained confidence, knowledge and skills to play the piano, keyboards, drums, bass guitar and different percussion instruments. While the rehabilitation professionals worked on gaining their family's support, they also helped to minimize the impact of their disabilities that interfered with their ability to learn instruments. As such, they acquired the new skills needed to be integrated as a band. The techniques used to achieve success are the same as those applied in the vocational rehabilitation training and employment services. The band is one more way of accomplishing Goodwill's mission of helping individuals develop their maximum human potential. These services helped over 3,300 individuals with disabilities this past year.

In 1998, the band performed at the annual "Talent Show" held by the City of Miami Parks and Recreation Program for Persons with Disabilities. This was their first public performance. They were awarded First Prize. It also marked a turning point for the future development of the group.

During the following two years the program was enhanced and brought to a new dimension by adding a brass section. New participants were integrated into the group to learn to play trumpets, trombones, and saxophone. Since then the band has continued to grow as a group and in the quality of the individual performers. Beginning with only two or three songs, they developed a repertoire of diverse music styles, such as jazz, rock, and Latin rhythm.

But, because of the special people who are involved in the Goodwill program, the training process requires even more time, dedication and patience. The Group is divided into four categories: the vocalists, keyboards, rhythm section, and brass. The music instructors work on a one-to-one basis to assist each participant to learn at their own pace, taking into account their special needs. Instructors write the music scores customized to each participant. Most of them have learned to read music, others memorize it, while others rely on hand cues to be able to perform. Once everyone knows their individual part in a song, the process of assembling a song begins. The final success depends on: practice, practice, and more practice.

The band performs outside Goodwill occasionally at events where their performance provides a positive message about people with disabilities. Goodwill does not charge for band performances or use them for fund raising purposes. Yet, outside performances are expensive for Goodwill and present unique challenges. In supporting their effort, it takes seven people nine hours to disassemble, transport, install and disassemble again the sound equipment and instruments. It also requires the support from fifteen members of Goodwill's professional staff to accompany them.
Band participants work in Goodwill jobs receiving training and employment services designed to help them achieve a level of development in which they can be placed in competitive community employment and become self supporting and independent. While working at Goodwill, they get paid on the basis of their productivity. Goodwill continues their pay while they attend music classes and band performances.

The musical experience has had a profound impact on the participants' lives, helping them develop new skills, confidence, independent living skills, together with an enormous feeling of accomplishment and pride from the joy and satisfaction of making music. Thanks to this program, they have overcome many barriers in their social life, learning to see themselves as productive citizens and valuable individuals and have inspired many people with their talents.

The band member's strongest supporters are their parents and family members. They have witnessed first hand the development and improved quality of life of their loved ones and appreciate the profound positive impact on the entire family. They have enthusiastically come forward in an accompanying video to share their experiences with you.

Professional band and musical group performances represent one of the best human demonstrations of diverse skills and talent brought together through intense dedication, practice, discipline and teamwork to accomplish the single goal of producing beautiful music for our enjoyment. As our band plays, their music will touch your heart and bring you feelings of joy. With this they will have succeeded in demonstrating what people with disabilities can accomplish when given the opportunity to develop to their full potential.