Piano Lessons Help Roxbury Girl Share Gift With Others

BOSTON (CBS) – In the heart of Boston, near Roxbury’s Dudley Square, a group of children at the Dudley Branch public library learn how to play the piano.

“I really like this class,” one student said.

The class, which is now filled to its maximum capacity of 20, caters to children between ages 6-17 from all Boston neighborhoods. For nearly a decade, the classes have been offered every fall.

The best part for parents is that the classes are free.

“My son, he was previously in a piano lesson, I was paying 45 dollars for 30 minutes, so it’s really very helpful,” one parent said.

One of the first students to sign up was Jossmary Santiago.

“It helps me a lot, by learning more,” said Santiago.

Jossmary performs at House of Prayer Church in Dorchester. (WBZ-TV)

Jossmary performs at House of Prayer Church in Dorchester. (WBZ-TV)

“It’s been up and down, because when she was 2 years and a half, she was diagnosed with autism,” explained Jossmary’s mother, Damaris Santiago.

Battling autism has been a constant struggle for Jossmary and her mom.

“Oh everyday, everyday. There wasn’t one night that I wasn’t going to my bed without crying because she didn’t let me hug her. She didn’t have no eye contact, with anybody,” said Damaris.

Santiago said that changed four years ago, when her then-16-year-old daughter started taking the free piano lessons at the Dudley library.

“When I’m playing the music, I feel peaceful,” said Jossmary.

The Dorchester native learned to play the piano by ear.

“She’s a very talented girl,” said piano instructor Carlos Vargas, a UC Berkeley professor who has been teaching Jossmary for four years. “There are some harmonies there that are complicated to remember and very hard if you read music but she just does it by herself.”

Carlos Vargas gives Jossmary Santiago a lesson. (WBZ-TV)

Carlos Vargas gives Jossmary Santiago a lesson. (WBZ-TV)

“As soon as I learned from Carlos, I realized, this is what I’m really good at,” Jossmary said.

Her piano skills are a gift that she now shares others. Jossmary is now a regular pianist and singer at House of Prayer Church in Dorchester. The song she performs in front of worshipers is the same song, she wrote and composed herself.

“I’m proud. I’m so proud. I thank God for her,”  said her Damaris.

Playing the piano is a passionate skill that Jossmary hopes to further.

“In the future I want to attend to Berkley College, and learn more types of music,” Jossmary said.

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