Lots of kids today like to jam to rap, hip-hop, rock or pop music.
But the children of the Henri L. Muhammad School of Music prefer to rock out to Beethoven, Brahms and Bach.
Take 12-year-old Amaya Johnson. She plays the violin, flute and piano and has performed in so many recitals she can’t remember how many.
“I can’t even count them on both hands,” she said.
A student of the music school, Amaya was one of the young violinists, singers and dancers who performed Sunday as part of the school’s Voice of My Heart Recital Series. Sunday’s concert, which was held in First Shiloh Baptist Church on Pine Street, kicked off the school’s 15th anniversary season and focused on black classical music.
About 100 people attended the recital, which not only encompassed the classical music contributions of Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven, but it also highlighted the contributions of black and minority composers and performers such as Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, William Grant Still – often called “the Dean of African American composers” – and Joseph Boulogne, also known as the Black Mozart.
Amaya, whose favorite composers are Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, was among the chamber players who opened the program.
“No, I’m not nervous,” she said. “You get used to it after awhile. You know what to do, so you don’t think about it.”
Introduced to the violin when she was 7, Amaya said she doesn’t have a favorite instrument, but she can relate to the flute.
“To me it’s more of a girly instrument, a girly sound, so I can relate to it,” she said.
Amaya and her fellow musician Henri Muhammad, son of the music school’s founder, share similar tastes in classical composers.
Ask him who his favorite composer is, and he doesn’t miss a beat.
“Beethoven. I like his music,” said 9-year-old Henri, who also plays the piano. But the violin is his favorite, he said.
His future career options are not limited to playing music. He would also like to teach it, along with chemistry and architecture.
Violinist Nailah Kent, 9, also performed in the chamber group with Amaya.
Nailah has been playing the violin for four years and wants to be a violin teacher when she grows up.
Her love of the instrument and classical music was developed at a very young age.
“My grandma took me to a concert,” Nailah said.
That was when she was 5 years old. She started taking lessons at the music school soon thereafter.
Following in Nailah’s footsteps, her grandmother learned to play, too.
Anyango Yarbo-Davenport was the guest violinist during the event. A professional musician, Yarbo-Davenport has been playing the piano since she was 2 years old.
She is finishing up her doctorate degree at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, where she also teaches all ages at the Eastman Community Music School.
Her career as a violinist has taken her all over the world. In the next two months alone, she’ll be performing in the Bahamas, Colombia and Spain.
Music, she said, is just like any other language.
“I think it can be an outlet, a source of inner strength for children. It can build confidence,” she said. “You can communicate through music.”
The Muhammad School of Music has students from Buffalo, Niagara Falls, surrounding suburbs and Toronto. The school also provides violin classes at numerous schools in Buffalo and through community outreach programs.
Its mission is to give children and adults an opportunity to experience the violin and other classical instruments.