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Celebrated Harlem Music School In Danger Of Closing For Good

Meryl Streep introduced the public to Opus 118 Harlem School Of Music with her portrayal of its founder in the 1999 Oscar-nominated movie, " The Music Of My Heart." Now, the school is in dire financial straights, exacerbated by the recession, and its doors could close permanently, if it doesn't get an infusion of cash, and soon.

Roberta Guaspari founded Opus 118, 19 years ago after the city eliminated the music program in three Harlem schools. She says music helps build character and self-esteem. " It gives the children a chance to focus, solve problems, not to give up," explaining how important the work ethic is.

Thirty percent of the school's operating budget is underwritten by the government, foundation and corporate grants. The balance comes from private support, and unless Opus raises a half-a- million dollars by the end of June, the school officials say they will not be able to reopen in September. The say that would be a shame, because the school means so much to the students.

"I feel really accomplished, because when you play the violin, it's a really difficult instrument to play, but if you work hard... you can really be able to master it," according to music student Sarah Sackeyfio.

Fellow student Josh Kelly Kapaj added,"it's a lot better than being out on the street, hanging out on the corner, going to the store and buying something, then going back home, sitting on the couch and being bored."

Many of the hundreds-of-students who've passed through Opus 118 have gone on to study music at prestigious institutions like The Juilliard School. The Opus program has opened the heart and minds of city kids to music, and it's the music of the heart from generous New Yorkers who they hope -- and pray -- will keep the music going at their beloved school.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun