LOS ANGELES TIMES:
THREE Decembers ago, middle school band teacher Ron Wakefield brought his 35-member orchestra to a crowded homeless shelter in Santa Ana. They performed a Christmas concert on a concrete slab in the backyard where some of the families slept.
Tiffany Zoller, a skinny girl with stick-straight blond hair and a crooked smile, listened to them play “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “What Child Is This?”
“I’d give anything if I could do that,” said Tiffany, then 9. Wakefield, a teacher at North Park Middle School in Pico Rivera, was so moved by Tiffany’s comment that he began buying new musical instruments for the shelter’s children, spending $800 of his own money. He also rounded up volunteers from his band to tutor the children weekly.
The Isaiah House Music Club was born. This year, the Music Club made Wakefield, 50, proud beyond expectation, in a concert setting leagues from the shelter’s backyard.
The first visits by the North Park volunteers — Wakefield, his current students and a former student — were jarring. Adults, virtually all of whom were mothers crammed into tight quarters, were frustrated by their problems and bickered incessantly.
The parents of some shelter children were in jail. The transient nature of homelessness meant that dozens of children filtered through the band. Some disappeared for weeks at a time, often to another shelter or motel, only to return.
The band is about more than music, Wakefield and other volunteers said. It’s about giving the children a constant in their unstable lives.
The North Park band had a long-standing invitation to play this April at Carnegie Hall from the National Band and Orchestra Festival, a performance of student musicians from around the country. The band invited six of their homeless friends, most of whom had never heard of Carnegie Hall, to join them.
Wakefield hoisted his baton, and the Isaiah House children raised their instruments. Backed by a couple of their North Park tutors, they launched into “Pieta” by Joseph Lawson. The composition begins dolefully, grows calm, then ends in joy and triumph.
When they finished, Wakefield held back tears.“There are no words to describe that beautiful joy and love that was on that stage,” he said.
“Some things are best unspoken.”
Photographs: Allen J. Schaben, Yola Monakhov ~ LA Times